French Voters Turn Out in High-Stakes Parliamentary Elections

French voters participated in the first round of early parliamentary elections on Sunday, with the potential to shift the government’s power to nationalist and far-right parties. The outcome of these two-round elections, concluding on July 7, could have implications for European financial markets, Western support for Ukraine, and the management of France’s nuclear arsenal and global military force.

Many French voters expressed frustration with economic concerns, including inflation, and perceived President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership as arrogant and out-of-touch. Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Rally party has capitalized on this discontent, particularly through online platforms like TikTok, and has led in pre-election opinion polls. The New Popular Front, a left-wing coalition, also poses a challenge to Macron’s centrist alliance Together for the Republic, vowing to reverse unpopular economic reforms.

With 49.5 million registered voters, the elections will determine the 577 members of the National Assembly, France’s influential lower house of parliament. Turnout stood at an unusually high 59% with three hours remaining before polls closed, possibly indicating voters’ concerns about the potential success of the far-right National Rally. The vote took place during the traditional first week of summer vacation, and absentee ballot requests were significantly higher than in 2022.

The first polling projections were expected at 8 p.m., with early official results to follow later on Sunday. Macron and Le Pen both cast their votes in northern France. Parisian voters expressed concerns about immigration and the rising cost of living, reflecting the country’s growing divide between the far right and far left blocs.

Macron called for early elections after his party’s defeat in the European Parliament election, hoping to rally moderate forces against the far right. However, pre-election polls indicate increasing support for the National Rally, raising the possibility of them winning a parliamentary majority. In such a scenario, Macron would likely appoint National Rally President Jordan Bardella, aged 28, as prime minister in a power-sharing system known as “cohabitation.”

The results of the first round will provide an indication 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 support has expanded significantly, and Bardella has expressed intentions to halt certain arms supplies to Ukraine and question citizenship rights for those born in France.

The left-wing coalition’s substantial spending promises, along with those of the National Rally, have raised concerns about France’s heavy debt and its impact on financial markets. In New Caledonia, where violence erupted last month, polls closed earlier due to an extended curfew. The Indigenous Kanaks in the French Pacific territory have long sought independence from France.

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