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French Parliamentary Elections: What to Watch For

Polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. local time. In bigger cities, polls can close as late as 8 p.m., which is when pollsters will publish their first projections of how many seats each party has won.

Official results will be published throughout the evening on the Interior Ministry website.

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President Emmanuel Macron needs a majority in the National Assembly to push through his agenda. Credit Pool photo by Martin Bureau

What is at stake?

The National Assembly is the more powerful of France’s two houses of Parliament (the other is the Senate), and it has the final word in passing legislation. Mr. Macron needs a majority to push through his agenda, which includes an overhaul of labor laws, changes in the pension and tax systems, an ambitious ethics bill, and a controversial legalization of security measures currently possible only under the state of emergency.

Since 2002, when the timing of legislative elections was changed so that they directly followed the presidential elections, the ballot has served as confirmation of the president’s victory, reliably sending a majority of representatives of the president’s party to Parliament.

Analysts and pundits had questioned Mr. Macron’s ability to do the same with his newly formed and still inexperienced party, La République en Marche.

But after a strong showing in the first round by La République en Marche and its centrist ally, the Mouvement Démocrate, when they gathered about 32 percent of the vote, polls predict they will secure upward of 400 seats: much more than the 289 needed for a majority.

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A polling station in Lyon, France, during the first round of of legislative elections. Credit Laurent Cipriani/Associated Press

The importance of turnout

Turnout in the first round was the lowest for legislative elections in France’s modern history. Only about 49 percent of those registered to vote went to the polls, leading some to question the legitimacy, if not the efficacy, of a National Assembly dominated by Mr. Macron’s party.

If the polls are correct in predicting a crushing majority for his party, analysts worry that Mr. Macron will have little incentive to compromise with opposition parties or to build coalitions around certain bills, arguing that in the absence of that kind of parliamentary debate, anger from those opposed to certain legislation could spur street protests.

What to watch for

• The level of turnout.

A higher turnout would give La République en Marche a stronger mandate in the National Assembly, but turnout could remain low if voters opposed to Mr. Macron are discouraged enough to stay home, or even if those favorable to him think the results are a foregone conclusion.

• The fate of establishment parties, especially the Socialists.

The traditional parties that have governed much of France’s political life for the past 50 years — the Socialists on the left and the Republicans (or their predecessors) on the right — have struggled to compete with Mr. Macron’s message of political renewal. The Socialists are expected to save only a couple dozen seats among the nearly 300 they currently hold.

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Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right Front National, at a rally in Calais, France, this month. Credit Philippe Huguen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

• How Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon perform.

Ms. Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Front and Mr. Macron’s runoff opponent, is running for a seat in Hénin-Beaumont in northern France. Mr. Mélenchon, the leader of the far-left France Unbowed movement, is running in Marseille, on the Mediterranean coast.

Even though both leaders have good chances of being elected, their parties, especially the National Front, failed to capitalize on their showings in the presidential election, and they may win only a few seats each.

• The number of female representatives elected.

A record number of women are well positioned to be elected on Sunday, many of them candidates for La République en Marche, which was one of the only parties to field more women than men.

Under French law, parties that do not field at least 50 percent of female candidates in the legislative elections are fined, but parties have sometimes preferred to pay the fines or have fielded female candidates in districts that are hard to win.

Source: NYT > World

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