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PARIS: The French will vote on Sunday in high-stakes early parliamentary elections that could change the course of France and allow Marine Le Pen’s far-right party to take power for the first time in history.
Russia’s war against Ukraine, now in its third year, and much higher energy and food prices have seen support for the anti-immigration and Eurosceptic National Compaction (RN) party surge, despite President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to stem the rise.
Polling stations across France open at 8:00 a.m. (06:00 GMT) in the first round of elections and close 12 hours later, directly followed by polls that usually predict the outcome with some degree of accuracy.
France’s overseas territories, all over the world, voted at the weekend. About 49 million French people are eligible to vote.
The election of the 577 seats in the Parliament is two-round. The form of the new parliament will be revealed after the second round, one week later, on July 7.
Most polls show the National Assembly on course to win the most seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, although it remains unclear whether the party can win a majority.
A high turnout is predicted, with final polls showing the RN with 35-37 percent of the vote, compared to 27.5-29 percent for the leftist New People’s Front alliance and 20-21 percent for Macron’s centrist camp.
If the RN obtains an absolute majority, RN party leader Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s 28-year-old protégé with no governing experience, can become prime minister in a tense “coexistence” with Macron.
On Monday, Macron plans to convene a cabinet meeting to decide what to do next, government sources told AFP.
France is set for a year of political chaos and confusion with the hung assembly, said Mujtaba Rahman, European head of risk consultancy Eurasia Group.
“There is no example of such impasse in recent French politics,” Rahman said.
Macron’s decision to call early elections, after the RN won a strong showing in this month’s European Parliament elections, shocked friends and foes and sparked uncertainty in Europe’s second-largest economy.
The Paris stock market suffered its biggest monthly decline in the past two years in June, falling 6.4 percent, according to data published on Friday.
In an editorial in the French daily Le Monde, he said it was time to mobilize against the extreme right.
“To hand over any power to him is nothing less than taking the risk of gradually undoing everything that has been built and conquered in more than two and a half centuries,” the statement said.
Wielding mops and buckets, several activists of the feminist collective Femen, dressed as cleaners, protested naked at the Trocadero in Paris on Saturday, chanting slogans against the extreme right.
Separately, thousands of people joined the LGBT Pride march in Paris, some carrying posters targeting the far right.
“I think it’s even more important now to fight hate in general, against all its forms,” ​​said 19-year-old student Themis Hallin-Mallet.
Many pointed to a spike in hate speech, intolerance and racism during the recrimination campaign. In recent days, the video in which two supporters of the RN verbally attack a black woman has gone viral.
Macron condemns “racism or anti-Semitism”.
Macron had apparently hoped to catch his political opponents off guard by taking voters to a crucial choice about France’s future, but observers say he may have lost his gamble.
Support for Macron’s centrist camp collapsed, while left-wing parties put aside their bickering to form the New Popular Front, a nod to an alliance founded in 1936 to fight fascism.
Analysts say Le Pen’s years-long efforts to clean up the image of the party co-founded by a former Waffen SS member have paid off. The party promised to strengthen purchasing power, curb immigration and boost public order.
“Victory is in our hands, so let’s seize this historic opportunity and vote!” Le Pen wrote on the X social media platform on Friday.
Under Macron, France has been one of the main Western backers of Ukraine since the 2022 invasion by Russia.
But Le Pen and Bardella said they would reduce French aid to Ukraine by ruling out the deployment of ground troops and long-range missiles.
A defiant Macron stood by his decision to call the election while warning voters that a victory by the far right or hard left could spark a “civil war”.
He insisted he would serve out the remainder of his second term until 2027, regardless of which party wins.

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