French parliamentary polls close with high turnout, exit poll indicates far-right tops vote share

Snap polls to the 577-member French National Assembly on Sunday witnessed a heavy turnout in the first round, surpassing the voting percentage of previous elections over the past four decades, while exit polls indicated the far-right, fresh from its European Parliament election triumph, is forecast to gain the most votes overall and President Emmanuel Macron’s party comes third.

While final figures were awaited, at 5 p.m. local time (3 p.m. GMT) – three hours before the official close of polls in the cities (polling in rural areas ended at 6 p.m.), nearly 60 per cent (59.39 per cent) of the electorate had exercised their franchise, as per figures from the Ministry of the Interior. In 2022, the turnout at the same time was just 39.4 per cent, the BBC reported.

As per exit poll projections for the key poll, whose results will not only impact the political fate of President Macron, but also the course of the country and the European Union, the far-right National Rally (RN) of Marine Le-Pen, with the 28-year-old Jordan Bardella its PM face, has secured 34 per cent of the votes.

As per the exit poll, conducted by Ipsos-Talan for France Televisions and Radio France, the New Popular Front alliance of various Left parties was second with 28.1 per cent, while Macron’s own centrist Ensemble Alliance trailed in the third place with just over a fifth of the vote, at 20.3 per cent.

However, the story is not yet over, despite Le-Pen, in her address after the polling ended and exit poll predictions were released, exulting in the “wipe-out” of the Macron camp.

“Democracy has spoken and the French have put the RN and its allies at the top, practically wiping out the Macron camp,” she said, adding that people clearly want to “turn the page after seven years of scornful and corrosive rule”, the BBC reported.

She urged people to vote for the RN again next Sunday in the second round so that Bardella can be appointed Prime Minister.

While 289 seats are required to win a majority, the French political system is slightly complex and will go to a second round, in which candidates, whose support did not reach 12.5 per cent of all locally registered voters, are eliminated. Only those who secure 50 per cent of the vote with a turnout of at least one-fourth of the local electorate win automatically in the first round.

The run-off will be taking place in a week’s time – on next Sunday (July 7).

The elections – which were not due till 2027 – were called in a surprise announcement by Macron on June 9 – after the National Rally party decisively defeated his alliance in the European Parliament elections.

While the decision was seen as a gamble, Macron had no option as he failed to win a majority for his party in the previous (2022) elections, held soon after his own re-election, and was hamstrung in passing new laws or reforms.

The prospect of either the far-right or the left gaining power is seen as leading to a “civil war” – as Macron himself warned recently, a poll published on Friday indicated that 40 per cent each of respondents fear this eventuality in case of either party from the extremes of the political spectrum gain power, the BBC reported.

However, Macron has announced that even if his party loses, he will not quit as President before 2027 when his term ends. Dealing with political opponents controlling the legislature will be tough, as the parliament cannot be dismissed for another election for at least a year.

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