First round of French parliamentary elections overshadowed by lowest voter turnout since 1958


A voter casts his vote at a polling station during the French parliamentary elections in Saint-Savin, south-western France, on June 12, 2022. (Photo by Thibaud MORITZ / AFP) (Photo by THIBAUD MORITZ/AFP via Getty Images)

By Xiaofei XuParis, June 13: Just weeks after his own re-election, French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist alliance Ensemble risks losing its absolute majority in parliament, after early results in Sunday's legislative elections showed it neck and neck with leftist coalition New Ecologic and Social People's Union (NUPES).

Based on 90 per cent of the total votes counted on Sunday evening, Ensemble has collected 25.37 per cent (5.1 million votes), while the pan-left NUPES led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon has so far gathered 24.31 per cent (4.9 million votes), partial results from France's Interior Ministry showed.

The second round of voting is scheduled for June 19. If after that Ensemble falls short of the 289 thresholds for an absolute majority -- which major pollsters are projecting as a possibility, Macron will become the first reigning French president to not win a parliamentary majority since the 2000 electoral reform.

The truth is that the presidential party, after the first round, is battered and defeated," Mélenchon claimed on Sunday after early projections were announced.

Sunday's voting was shadowed by low voter enthusiasm, with voter turnout projected at 47 per cent according to Interior Ministry data -- the lowest for the first round of parliamentary elections since 1958, when the current French Fifth Republic was established.

Partial results from the Interior Ministry also indicated the far-right National Rally and established right-wing party The Republicans and its allies lag behind, with 19.9 per cent and 10.58 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, rightwing political commentator Éric Zemmour, -- whose new far-right party Reconquest! had gathered less than 5% per cent of the vote in early results -- has not qualified for the next round of voting for the parliamentary seat he had targeted.

Just like the presidential election, parliamentary elections in France function on a two-round system. If no one wins more than half of the vote in the first round, then all candidates who received at least 12.5 per cent of registered voters qualify for a second round.

The Élysée announced in May that government ministers who are defeated in the parliamentary elections will have to resign from their cabinet posts.

Among the 15 minister-level officials standing for election, multiple are at risk of losing including Clément Beaune, Minister Delegate for Europe who has been prominent in France's response to the Ukraine crisis.

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