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Macron’s alliance facing fight for absolute majority in French election despite leading projected seat count

French President Emmanuel Macron faces a tough fight to win an absolute majority in parliament that would allow him to govern with a free hand after a strong showing by a new left-wing alliance in Sunday’s first-round election.

Projections based on the election’s partial results showed that at the national level, Macron’s party and its allies received about 25 to 26 per cent of the vote. They were neck and neck with a new leftist coalition composed of hard-left, Socialist and Green Party supporters.

Yet Macron’s candidates are projected to win in a greater number of districts than their leftist rivals, giving the president a majority.

More than 6,000 candidates were running for 577 seats in France’s National Assembly in the first round of the election.

France’s two-round voting system is complex and not proportionate to the nationwide support for a party. For races that did not have a decisive winner on Sunday, up to four candidates who received at least 12.5 per cent support each will compete in a second round of voting on June 19.

A voter casts a ballot in Marseille, southern France, on Sunday. (Daniel Cole/The Associated Press)

Following Macron’s re-election in May, his centrist coalition was seeking an absolute majority that would enable it to implement his campaign promises, which include tax cuts and raising France’s retirement age from 62 to 65.

Yet Sunday’s projection show Macron’s party and allies could have trouble getting more than half the seats in the National Assembly, much less than five years ago, when they won 361 seats. Polling agencies estimated that Macron’s centrists could win from 255 to more than 300 seats, while the NUPES bloc headed by hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon could win more than 200 seats.

The National Assembly has final say over the Senate when it comes to voting in laws.

Sunday’s turnout reached a record low for a parliamentary election, with less than half of France’s 48.7 million voters casting ballots. Consumer concerns about rising inflation have dominated the campaign, but voter enthusiasm has been muted.

A lack of an absolute majority for Macron would force him into having to make unruly bill-by-bill pacts with right-wing parties and could trigger a cabinet reshuffle.

No poll has shown NUPES winning a ruling majority — a scenario that would thrust France into an unstable period of cohabitation where the president and prime minister come from different political groupings.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon speaks to supporters in Marseille on Sunday. (Daniel Cole/The Associated Press)

Mélenchon’s platform includes a significant minimum wage increase, lowering the retirement age to 60 and locking in energy prices, which have been soaring due to the war in Ukraine. He is an anti-globalization firebrand who has called for France to pull out of NATO and “disobey” European Union rules.

Macron beat far-right rival Marine Le Pen in the presidential runoff, and France’s parliamentary election is traditionally a difficult race for far-right candidates. Rivals from other parties tend to co-ordinate or step aside to boost chances of defeating far-right candidates in the second round of voting.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen leaves a voting booth in Hénin-Beaumont, northern France, on Sunday. (Michel Spingler/The Associated Press)

Le Pen’s far-right National Rally hopes to do better than five years ago, when it won eight seats. With at least 15 seats, the far right would be allowed to form a parliamentary group and gain greater powers at the National Assembly.

Le Pen herself is a candidate for re-election in her stronghold of Hénin-Beaumont, in northern France, where she cast her ballot on Sunday.

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