French voters head to the polls to elect a new National Assembly or lower house of the French parliament in the first round of two in the French parliamentary elections this Sunday.
The second round will take place on June 19.
On a recent visit to the southern Tarn region, with support for him and his policies waning, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “If the presidential election is crucial, the legislative election is decisive.”
DW explores the ins and outs of the parliamentary elections, the key players and what is at stake.
How it works
Since 2002, when the French switched to a five-year term for the presidency from a seven-year term, legislative elections have been held in the weeks following the presidential election. As a result of this structure, they have been overshadowed by the presidential elections.
Legislative elections are unique in that while they occur on a national level, ultimately it is the local level constituency that organizes the vote. Candidates are not chosen from a list but rather directly by their constituencies, like in the US elections.
There are 577 seats up for grabs, including 11 for French nationals abroad. Macron’s party along with coalition allies at present hold an absolute majority of 345 seats.
In the first round of voting, a constituency is won if a candidate has an absolute majority of the votes and at the same time at least 25% of the eligible voters. History shows that this is the case in only a few of the 577 constituencies.
After the first round of the 2017 general election, only four seats were determined. A similar scenario is expected in this election.
The future of the National Assembly will only be determined after the second round of voting on June 19, when run-off elections will be held in the constituencies that have not yet been decided.
Which are the main parties?
Should Emmanuel Macron stave off challenges from the left and the right, his centrist alliance Ensemble could continue to hold a majority.
Should his coalition fail to garner a majority, he may be forced to cobble together an alliance with parties right of center. A new coalition could force the ouster of some cabinet members despite a recent reshuffle after the presidential election.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of the left-leaning opposition La France Insoumise, is urging voters to reject Macron’s party, La Republique en Marche, and vote for what is known as “cohabitation.” In French politics, this means the parliamentary majority is of a different party than the president.
The French far right, led by Marine Le Pen, is represented by the Rassemblement National. Le Pen came in second during the French presidential elections and hopes to capitalize on this success.
The traditional right-wing party, Les Republicains, along with the left-wing party, the Parti Socialiste, hopes to recover from recent defeats.
What are the issues?
Energy and food prices are soaring in France as inflation hobbles economies across Europe.
Macron’s accommodationist policies towards Russian leader Vladimir Putin have also harmed France’s reputation abroad although domestically, Macron’s approach towards Moscow could potentially draw in voters from the left and the right.
On Thursday, Macron noted the high stakes nature of the race and cautioned French voters against “extremes” that would take the country from “crisis to crisis.”
When will we see a result?
We can expect results in the French parliamentary elections around 8 p.m. local time (18:00 UTC/GMT) in Paris on Sunday night.
French public broadcaster France 2 is expected to announce the results.
What happened in April’s presidential elections?
Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in a second-round run-off election to win a second five-year term.
ar/wd (AFP, Reuters)
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