The first exit polls after the French parliamentary election’s opening round on Sunday show that President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition Ensemble is well on its way to gathering most of the 577 seats available to the MPs chasing the five-year term.
NUPES, an unexpected left-wing alliance consisting La France Insoumise, Socialist, Green and Communist parties and led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is firmly in what is a close second place, meaning that Macron and Ensemble might not have enough to keep their absolute majority in the National Assembly.
The results came as the turnout for the parliamentary election was again noticeably lower than in the past elections.
Already by noon, it was clear that the turnout of 18.43% at noon was almost one point lower than in 2017, when it stood at 19.24%. The noon turnout for the presidential election earlier this year was almost exactly six points higher, standing at 25.48%.
At 39,42% at 5 pm CET, the number of those who went out to vote was still below the 2017 figures. As the polls closed at 8 pm, the final turnout is expected to be around 47%, with a majority of French voters opting to stay at home.
French voters were choosing from a whopping 6,293 candidates vying for election on 12 June — which works out as nearly 11 candidates per constituency on average.
Of these, 55.8% are men (or 3,514 candidates), and 44.2% are women (2,779 candidates).
The parliamentary election, seeking to choose the députés or MPs elected to the Assemblée Nationale for the next five years, comes after Emmanuel Macron won a second five-year term as France’s president in April.
But the centrist pro-European needs to win a majority in parliament to have the best chance of pushing through his policies.
That ambition remains in the balance. Polls before the first round showed his centrist coalition is only slightly ahead of Melenchon’s NUPES bloc, and today’s results have reflected what is turning out to be a distinctly tight race.
The president’s coalition was expected to win between 275 and 315 seats in France’s parliament, according to the Ipsos/Cevipof pre-election poll, whereas 289 seats are needed for an absolute majority.
Macron will be hoping he does not become the first president since 2002 to have to deal with “cohabitation” — a situation in which the prime minister is not on the same political side and the president does not have a majority in the assembly.