Macron faces a tough battle for control of parliament while France votes Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron enters the ballot box to cast his ballot during the first round of the French parliamentary elections, in a polling station in Le Touquet, France, June 12, 2022. Louis Marin / Poole via REUTERS // Faylova photo

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By Mimosa Spencer and Gilles Guillaume

PARIS (Reuters) – Parliamentary elections were held in France on Sunday, which could deprive centrist President Emmanuel Macron of the absolute majority he needs to rule with his hands free.

Voting began at 8 a.m. (6 p.m. GMT), with initial forecasts expected at 8 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) in an election that could change the face of French politics.

Researchers predict that Macron’s camp will receive the largest number of seats, but say there is no guarantee that it will reach the 289 threshold for an absolute majority.

Opinion polls also show that the far right is likely to achieve its greatest parliamentary success in decades, while a broad left-green alliance could become the largest opposition group and conservatives will be the kings.

In the north, just outside Paris, where light rain provided some relief after a great heat wave hit France on Saturday, some voters said environmental concerns had motivated them to vote for the left-wing Nupes alliance.

“In the last five years, the presidential majority has not been able to meet the challenges of climate change – the current heat wave is making you want to support environmental projects even more,” Leonard Doko, a 21-year-old film student, told Reuters.

Others said they did not trust the leader of the left bloc, fireman Jean-Luc Melenchon, who is campaigning under the slogan “Choose me as prime minister” and promises to reduce the retirement age from 62 to 60, freeze prices and ban companies. from dismissal of workers if they pay dividends.

“Melenchon is a hypocrite. He makes promises he can’t keep. Retiring at 60 is impossible,” said Brigitte Derez, 83, a retired dance teacher who voted for Macron’s party.

Overnight, the results of the French overseas department brought bad news for Macron, as his Minister of Maritime Affairs lost in her Caribbean constituency. About 15 ministers are running in the election, and Macron said they will have to leave if they lose.

If Macron’s camp does not get a full majority, it would open up a period of uncertainty that could be resolved by a degree of power-sharing between France’s unheard-of parties in recent decades – or lead to prolonged paralysis and repeat parliamentary elections down the line.

REJUVENATED LEFT

Macron, who wants to raise the retirement age, pursue his pro-business agenda and further integration into the European Union, won a second term in April.

After electing a president, French voters traditionally used legislative polls a few weeks later to give him a comfortable parliamentary majority – with Francois Mitterrand in 1988, a rare exception.

Macron and his allies can still achieve this.

But the rejuvenated left is facing a difficult challenge, as rampant inflation, which is raising the cost of living, is sending shockwaves into the French political landscape.

If Macron and his allies miss an absolute majority by just a few seats, they could be tempted to deceive center-right or conservative lawmakers, party officials said.

If they miss it by a wide margin, they could either seek an alliance with the Conservatives or run a minority government that will have to negotiate laws on a case-by-case basis with other parties.

Even if Macron’s camp wins the 289 or more seats it needs to avoid power-sharing, it will likely be due to its former prime minister, Edouard Philippe, who will demand more talk about what the government is doing.

So after five years of unquestionable control, Macron, known for his top-down approach to power, is considering a new mandate in which he will have to reach more compromises.

No poll has shown that Melenchon’s left-wing Nupes is gaining a ruling majority, a scenario that could throw the eurozone’s second-largest economy into a tense period of coexistence between the president and prime minister from different political groups.

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