Projections based on partial election results showed that at the national level, Macron’s party got about 25-26% of the vote, making them neck-in-neck with a new coalition comprising hard-left candidates.
Still, Macron’s candidates are projected to win in a greater number of districts than their leftist rivals, giving the president a majority.
Some 6,000 candidates were running Sunday for 577 seats in France’s National Assembly in the first round of the election. The two-round voting system is complex and not proportionate to the nationwide support for a party. For French races that did not have a decisive winner on Sunday, up to four candidates who get at least 12.5% support will compete in a second round of voting on June 19.
Kitchen table issues have dominated the campaign, but voter enthusiasm has been muted. At Sunday’s turnout, less than half of France’s 48.7 million voters had cast ballots.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who had hoped the election would vault him into the prime minister’s post, was among only a trickle of voters as he cast his ballot in Marseille, a southern port city.
Following Macron’s reelection in May, his centrist coalition was seeking an absolute majority that would enable it to implement his campaign promises like cutting taxes and raising France’s retirement age from 62 to 65.
Yet Sunday’s projection showed Macron’s party and allies could have trouble getting more than half the seats at the Assembly. A government with a large (but not absolute) majority would still be able to rule, but would have to seek some support from opposition legislators.
Polling agencies estimated that Macron’s centrists could win from 255 to over 300 seats, while Mélenchon’s leftist coalition could win more than 200 seats. The National Assembly has final say over the Senate when it comes to voting in laws.
Mélenchon’s platform includes a significant minimum wage increase, lowering the retirement age to 60, and locking in energy prices, which have been soaring due to the war in Ukraine. He is an anti-globalization firebrand who has called for France to pull out of NATO and “disobey” EU rules.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.