PARIS (AP) – French voters were choosing lawmakers in a parliamentary election Sunday as President Emmanuel Macron seeks to secure his majority while under growing threat from a leftist coalition.
More than 6,000 candidates, ranging in age from 18 to 92, ran for 577 seats in the National Assembly in the first round of the election. Those who receive the most votes will advance to the decisive second round on June 19.
While candidates have sought to address consumer concerns about inflation, which was a key campaign issue, voter enthusiasm has been generally low. That was reflected in Sunday’s early turnout figures, which showed just 18% of France’s 48.7 million voters had cast ballots by noon.
Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who hopes the election may vault him to the prime minister’s post, was among only a trickle of voters as he cast his ballot in a diverse neighborhood of Marseille, a southern port city.
On France’s opposite coast, a small crowd gathered to watch Macron arrive to vote in the English Channel resort town of Le Touquet.
Following Macron’s reelection in May, his centrist coalition is seeking an absolute majority that would enable it to implement his campaign promises, which include tax cuts and raising the retirement age from 62 to 65.
But the latest opinion polls suggest Macron and his allies may have trouble winning over half of the parliamentary seats. A government with a large, but not absolute majority would still be able to rule, but only by bargaining with legislators.
The main opposition force appears to be Mélenchon’s newly-created coalition made up of leftists, greens and communists. The coalition’s platform includes a significant minimum wage increase, lowering the retirement age to 60 and locking in energy prices.
Mélenchon, an anti-globalization firebrand who has called for France to pull out of NATO and “disobey” EU rules, urged voters to give his coalition a majority and thereby force Macron to name him as prime minister, which would prompt a situation called “cohabitation.”