Far-Right National Rally Leads in First-Round Legislative Elections in France

French voters have propelled the far-right National Rally to a strong lead in the first-round legislative elections, according to polling projections. The surprise elections, called by French President Emmanuel Macron just three weeks ago, have plunged the country into political uncertainty. Macron has urged voters to rally against the far right in the second round of balloting, while National Rally leader Marine Le Pen has called for an “absolute majority” to form a new government.

Projections by polling agencies suggest that the National Rally stands a good chance of winning a majority in the lower house of parliament for the first time. The party’s estimated one-third of the first-round vote is nearly double their 18% in the first round in 2022. The second round of elections, which will take place on July 7, will be decisive but leaves questions about power-sharing between Macron and a prime minister who is hostile to most of his policies.

The high turnout of 59% three hours before polls closed, which is 20 percentage points higher than the last first-round vote in 2022, could potentially temper the outcome for the National Rally. The vote took place during the traditional first week of summer vacation in France, and absentee ballot requests were significantly higher than in 2022.

Macron called the early elections after his party’s defeat in the European Parliament election earlier in June. The National Rally’s success in the European elections prompted Macron to dissolve parliament and call for the surprise vote. However, preelection polls suggested that the National Rally had a chance at winning a parliamentary majority, which would result in a power-sharing system known as “cohabitation” with Macron.

The results of the first round will provide a picture of voter sentiment, but the overall makeup of the next National Assembly remains uncertain due to the complicated voting system and potential alliances between parties. The National Rally’s promises, along with those of the left-wing coalition, have raised concerns about France’s heavy debt and shaken markets.

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