PARIS (Reuters) – France voted on Sunday in a high-stakes parliamentary election that could deprive centrist President Emmanuel Macron of the absolute majority he needs to govern with a free hand.
Voting started at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) in an election that could change the face of French politics.
Pollsters predict Macron’s camp is in no way guaranteed to reach the 289 threshold for an absolute majority.
Opinion polls also see the xenophobic and anti-Muslim far-right likely to score its biggest parliamentary success in decades, while a broad left-green alliance could become the largest opposition group and the conservatives find themselves as kingmakers.
If Macron’s camp does fall short of an outright majority, that would open a period of uncertainty that could be solved by a degree of power-sharing among parties unheard of in France over the past decades — or result in protracted paralysis and repeat parliamentary elections down the line.
Macron, who wants to push up the retirement age, pursues his pro-business agenda and further European Union integration, won a second term in April.
After electing a president, French voters have traditionally used legislative polls that follow a few weeks later to hand him a comfortable parliamentary majority — with Francois Mitterand in 1988 a rare exception.
Macron and his allies could still achieve that.
But the rejuvenated left is putting up a tough challenge, as rampant inflation that drives up the cost of living sends shockwaves through the French political landscape.
If Macron and his allies miss an absolute majority by just a few seats, they may be tempted to poach MPs from the center-right or conservatives, officials in those parties said.
Overnight, results of France’s overseas department brought bad news for Macron, with his minister for maritime affairs losing in her Caribbean constituency. Some 15 ministers are running in this election and Macron has said they’ll have to quit if they lose.