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Macron battles French left in tight Parliament election

PARIS (AFP) – French voters were picking a new Parliament yesterday in a run-off ballot, with centrist President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition seeking to maintain its majority in the face of a challenge from a newly formed left-wing alliance.

At almost 19 per cent by midday according to interior ministry figures, turnout was slightly higher than in last week’s first-round ballot, although forecasters suggest participation will remain below 50 per cent by the time all polling stations close.

The vote will be decisive for Macron’s second-term agenda following his re-election in April, with the 44-year-old needing a majority to secure promised tax cuts and welfare reform and raise the retirement age.

Projections from polling firms suggest his ‘Together’ coalition is on course to be the biggest party in the next National Assembly, but possibly short of the 289 seats needed for a majority.

New left-wing coalition NUPES is hoping to spring a surprise, with the red-green collective promising to block Macron’s agenda after uniting behind 70-year-old figurehead Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Falling short of the majority would force Macron into tricky alliances with other parties on the right to force through legislation.

The nightmare scenario for the president – seen as unlikely although not theoretically impossible – would be the left winning a majority and Melenchon heading the government.

“The vote is extremely open and it would be improper to say that things are settled one way or the other,” Melenchon told reporters during a final campaign stop in Paris.

Hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon casts his ballot in a polling station. PHOTO: AP