Less than half of eligible voters bothered to vote in the first round of France’s parliamentary election today, as Emmanuel Macron’s bid for a majority in the National Assembly is challenged by a left-Wing coalition.
A record abstention rate of almost 53 per cent was estimated when polls closed at 8pm on Sunday, with Mr Macron’s party struggling to win a majority in the 577 seat National Assembly in Paris.
An Ipsos poll put Mr Macron’s centrist alliance, Ensemble (Together) neck-and-neck with a left-wing coalition known as the Nupes, for the New Popular Ecological and Social Union.
Both major coalitions were on 25.2 per cent of the popular vote, which would translate to around 255 to 295 seats for Macron’s grouping, and 150 to 190 for the left-wingers.
Elsewhere, a hard-right firebrand was today rejected by voters as he tried to win a seat in Parliament.
In what looked like a fatal blow to his political career, Eric Zemmour, 64, failed to get through the first round of Sunday’s election to enter the National Assembly in Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured entering the voting booth) was hurt by record low numbers in the first round of French parliamentary elections today according to a poll by Ipsos
‘Reconquete’ party presidential candidate Eric Zemmour failed to get through the first round of voting today
The head of the Reconquest party instead finished in third place in the Riviera Var constituency, which includes the glamorous port town of St Tropez.
Mr Zemmour’s vote of 23 per cent was not enough to beat Philippe Lottiaux, from the National Rally, on almost 25 per cent, or Sereine Mauborgne from the left-wing Nupes coalition, on 28.5 per cent.
It follows Mr Zemmour being found guilty earlier this year of provoking racial hatred by calling child immigrants ‘thieves, rapists and murderers’.
Zemmour, a magazine journalist turned television pundit, had already been convicted twice on similar charges.
It was the latest in a turbulent few months for Mr Zemmour, who was revealed to be expecting a love child with his 28-year-old assistant in November last year. He also waved an assault rifle at reporters while telling them to ‘back off’ in October.
Mr Zemmour frequently speaks out against Muslims, black people and immigrants to the media.
He was also accused of virulent anti-Semitism after denying that the French collaborated with the Nazis during the wartime Holocaust, despite evidence to the contrary.
Sunday’s first round saw more than 6,000 candidates standing, and those with the most votes will progress to the second round in a week’s time.
Mr Macron was re-elected President for a second five-year term in May, and now wants to push ahead with business-friendly tax cuts and a move to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65.
But the polls suggest the President and his allies may have trouble winning more than half of the parliamentary seats, so securing an absolute majority with 289 seats.
This will mean that Mr Macron’s En Marche! (On The Move!) party will have to bargain with other parties to get legislation through.
Macron’s main opposition is the left-wing coalition Nupes, led by Julien Bayou (pictured casting his vote today)
The Nupes coalition is made up of greens, communists and others led by left-wing politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
If Mr Mélenchon’s grouping wins a majority, he will become Prime Minister – forcing a difficult situation called ‘cohabitation’.
This will mean that France is run by a President who does not share the same ideology or manifesto as the Prime Minister.
Mr Mélenchon and his leftists want to lower the retirement age and generally increase worker rights over big business.
The far-right, led by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party, is hoping to do better than five years ago, when it won just eight seats when it was called the National Front.
Sunday’s projection suggested the National Rally may win between 20 and 45 seats. It is hoping to win at least 15 seats this time round, so allowing it to form a parliamentary group.