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France will hold the first round of early parliamentary elections on Sunday, which could give the country its first far-right government since the Nazi occupation in World War II.

The runoff election will take place on July 7. The outcome of the vote is highly uncertain.

Three major political blocs compete with each other: the far-right Rassemblement National, the centrist alliance of President Emmanuel Macron and the New Popular Front coalition, which includes centre-left forces, the Greens and the radical left. The French system is complex and disproportionate to the national support of any one party.

Following the overwhelming victory of the far right in the European Parliament elections earlier this month, Macron called for early voting in France, fearing that otherwise the parliament would be paralyzed.

If the Rassemblement National wins a parliamentary majority, Macron would be expected to appoint 28-year-old Rassemblement National president Jordan Bardella as prime minister, under a difficult power-sharing system known as “cohabitation.” Bardella has said he would oppose sending French troops to Ukraine – a possibility Macron has not ruled out – and would also oppose the supply of French long-range missiles and other weapons capable of hitting targets in Russia.

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Macron, Le Pen and others cast their votes

French President Emmanuel Macron and other candidates from across the political spectrum have entered the country’s parliamentary elections after Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant Rassemblement National party dominated pre-election opinion polls.

According to the French Interior Ministry, voter turnout in the first round of the two-stage elections was 25.9 percent at midday, up from 18.43 percent at midday two years ago in the 2022 parliamentary elections.

The second round of elections will take place on July 7. Voters are concerned with issues such as immigration, inflation and rising living costs as the country becomes increasingly divided between the far-right and far-left blocs. A deeply unpopular and weakened Macron remains in the political centre.

New Caledonia’s top French official says voter turnout higher than two years ago

PARIS — New Caledonia’s top French official says voter turnout in Sunday’s parliamentary election in the troubled French Pacific region was higher than in the parliamentary election two years ago.

High Commissioner Louis Le Franc said in a statement that by noon local time, over 32.39% of registered voters had cast their ballots, compared to 13% at the same time in 2022.

Polling stations closed at 5 p.m. local time as the archipelago’s authorities extended an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew until July 8, the day after the second and decisive parliamentary election.

On May 13, violence broke out, leaving nine people dead after two weeks of unrest. The reason for this was attempts by Macron’s government to change the French constitution and electoral rolls in New Caledonia. The indigenous Kanaks feared that this would further marginalize them. They have long been trying to break away from France, which first occupied the Pacific region in 1853.

While the worst of the violence has subsided in recent weeks, tensions have flared again in the archipelago of 270,000 people ahead of crucial parliamentary elections. Seven detained leaders of the independent Kanak movement have been flown to mainland France and are being held in custody pending trial on charges of inciting the unrest, which has included protests, clashes, looting and arson.

Members of an independence movement called The Field Action Coordination Unit called for the “release and immediate return” of Christian Tein, the leader of the indigenous Kanak people, and six others, and accused Macron’s government of “colonial tactics.”

In France, polling stations for parliamentary elections begin with exceptionally high stakes

Across France, voters have begun casting their ballots in the first round of early parliamentary elections, a round in which far-right forces could take over the government – or there could be no majority at all.

Polls in France opened at 8am (06:00 GMT) on Sunday. The first election forecasts are expected at 8pm (18:00 GMT) when the last polling stations close. The first official results will be announced later on Sunday evening.

There are 49.5 million registered voters who will elect 577 members of the National Assembly, the lower house of the French parliament.

The outcome of the two-round election could impact European financial markets, Western support for Ukraine and the way France’s nuclear arsenal and global military power are managed.

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