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Low turnout so far in French parliamentary vote

19 Juin 2017

President Emmanuel Macron has won a commanding majority in France's parliamentary election, sweeping aside traditional parties and securing a powerful mandate for pro-business reforms.

Having begun the campaign as underdog, but by then already front-runner for the presidency, he was repeatedly asked on morning radio shows how he could possibly govern without a party and a parliament majority. Macron's party, which didn't exist 14 months ago and offered novice candidates from civilian life, has drawn from left and right to fill its ranks, effectively blurring the traditional left-right political divide.

France's youngest leader since Napoleon, Macron emerged from relative obscurity to score a thumping win in the presidential election in May.

The polls, by Kantar-Sofres and Ipsos/Sopra Steria, projected the main opposition force would be conservative party The Republicans and its allies with between 125 and 133 seats.

It also undermined the right's argument that Macron was just a continuation of unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande, under whom he had served as economy minister from 2014 to 2016.

Mr Melenchon, whose party was projected to win 25 to 30 seats, denounced Mr Macron's planned labour reforms that would make it easier to hire and fire French workers, calling them a "social coup d'etat" that he would fight.

Turnout in the election was estimated to be extremely low, with a senior En Marche! official warning that high levels of abstention are bad news for democracy. With its allies, it could get fewer than 50 seats, according to projections.

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Ms Le Pen, who entered parliament for the first time in her career, told supporters her FN had won at least six seats - but the party was certain to fall short of its target of 15 seats.

Ultra-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, who Macron also defeated in the presidential vote, said he won in his Marseille district.

Former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls narrowly retained his seat in the Paris suburbs, but former education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem - a one-time Socialist star - was beaten by an REM candidate in the central city of Lyon.

Less than half of the 47.5 million-strong electorate turned out last Sunday, a record low that especially punished Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front party.

However, some opponents vowed to do their best to counter Mr Macron's plans.

Disillusion with the political class is one reason given for what is likely to be a record low participation rate that could outdo the record low in last Sunday's first round, measured at 43 percent — five points lower than last week.

Experts partly blamed voter fatigue following the May 7 election of Macron, plus voter disappointment with politics.

Low turnout so far in French parliamentary vote