PARIS • French voters cast their ballots yesterday in the first round of a parliamentary election expected to give centrist President Emmanuel Macron the strong majority needed to carry out the far-reaching economic and social reforms he promises.
The vote to elect the Lower House's 577 members comes a month after Mr Macron, a former banker with little political experience, defied the odds to win the presidency of the euro zone's second-largest economy.
If, as polls project, the 39-year-old and his fledgling party win a commanding majority in next week's second round, it will be another blow for the mainstream parties on the right and left which failed to get a candidate into the presidential run-off.
"We want a big majority to be able to act and transform France over the next five years," Mr Mounir Mahjoubi, a tech entrepreneur running under Macron's Republic On The Move (LREM) banner, told Reuters as he canvassed support in his northern Paris constituency ahead of the vote.
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Opinion polls forecast that LREM and its centre-right MoDem allies would win at least 30 per cent of votes yesterday.
The conservative The Republicans party and its allies trail with about 20 per cent, ahead of the far-right National Front on about 17 per cent. Such an outcome would transform into a landslide majority in the second round, the opinion polls show.
While predicting the outcome can be tricky with 7,882 candidates vying for Parliament's seats, even LREM's rivals have been saying they expect Mr Macron to secure a majority.
SEEKING STRONG MANDATE
We want a big majority to be able to act and transform France over the next five years.
MR MOUNIR MAHJOUBI, a tech entrepreneur running under Mr Macron's Republic On The Move (LREM) banner.
Their strategy has been to urge voters to make sure the opposition will be big enough to have some clout in Parliament.
"We shouldn't have a monopolistic party," former prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve, a Socialist, told Reuters.
The survival of the Socialist Party, which ruled France for the past five years but is forecast to get just 15 to 30 seats, is at stake, as is the unity of The Republicans. Some key figures from both parties have rallied behind Mr Macron.
The National Front, reeling from a worse than expected score for chief Marine Le Pen in the presidential election, could miss its target to get enough lawmakers to form a parliamentary group. It is expected, though, to improve on the two deputies it had in the previous legislature.
Under France's two-round system for the parliamentary elections, any candidate with more than 12.5 per cent of the registered voters goes through to run-offs next Sunday, so long as no one gets 50 per cent at the first attempt. In the previous election five years ago, only 36, or about 6 per cent, of the constituencies were settled in the first round.