Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Strong turnout in France’s high-stakes elections

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The far right dominated pre-election polls

Paris, June 30: Voters across mainland France were casting ballots Sunday in the first round of exceptional parliamentary elections that could put the government in the hands of nationalist, far-right parties for the first time since the Nazi era.
The outcome of the two-round elections, which will wrap up July 7, could impact European financial markets, Western support for Ukraine and how France’s nuclear arsenal and global military force are managed.
Many French voters are frustrated about inflation and economic concerns, as well as President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership, which they see as arrogant and out-of-touch with their lives.
Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Rally party has tapped that discontent, notably via online platforms like TikTok, and dominated preelection opinion polls.
A new coalition on the left, the New Popular Front, also poses a challenge to the pro-business Macron and his centrist alliance Together for the Republic. It includes the French Socialists and Communists and the hard-left France Unbowed party and vows to reverse a deeply unpopular pension reform law that raised the retirement age from 62 to 64, among other economic reforms.
There are 49.5 million registered voters who will choose 577 members of the National Assembly, France’s influential lower house of parliament, during the two-round voting.
Turnout at midday at the first round stood at 25.9 per cent according to interior ministry figures, higher than the 18.43 per cent at midday during 2022 legislative elections.
Macron voted in Le Touquet, a seaside town in northern France, along with his wife, Brigitte. Le Pen cast her ballot in her party’s stronghold in northern France.
The vote takes place during the traditional first week of summer vacation in France, and absentee ballot requests were at least five times higher than in the 2022 elections.
Macron called the early elections after his party was trounced in the European Parliament election earlier in June by the National Rally, which has historic ties to racism and antisemitism and is hostile toward France’s Muslim community. It also has historical ties to Russia.
Macron’s call was an audacious gamble that French voters who were complacent about the European election would be jolted into turning out for moderate forces in national elections to keep the far right out of power.
Instead, preelection polls suggested that the National Rally is gaining support and has a chance at winning a parliamentary majority. In that scenario, Macron would be expected to name 28-year-old National Rally President Jordan Bardella as prime minister in an awkward power-sharing system known as “cohabitation.”
While Macron has said he won’t step down before his presidential term expires in 2027, cohabitation would weaken him at home and on the world stage. (AP)

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