France heading to polls in high-stake parliamentary elections

Voters have gone to the polls for the second time in France in crucial parliamentary run-off elections that threaten political deadlock.

While Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party is expected to win most votes, it faces falling short of a majority.

This raises the prospect of a hung parliament, denting the authority of President Emmanuel Macron.

If the National Rally does secure an absolute majority, the French leader could find himself forced into a difficult “cohabitation” with the country’s first far-right government since the Second World War.

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Who are National Rally?

Ms Le Pen’s party won the biggest vote share in the first round of France’s parliamentary elections.

But her hopes of a majority in the National Assembly seem less certain after centrist and left-wing candidates pulled out of races to boost the chances of their moderate rivals to block the far-right.

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Mr Macron called the snap vote after his centrist alliance was soundly beaten in the European elections by the National Rally earlier this month.

France has a semi-presidential system, which means it has both a president and a prime minister, who have separate powers.

The voting taking place on Sunday will determine who is prime minister but not president, with Mr Macron already set on remaining in his role until the end of his term in 2027.

If Ms Le Pen’s party wins an absolute majority, France would have a government and president from opposing political camps for only the fourth time in post-war history.

Her 28-year-old protégé Jordan Bardella would be prime minister if the party wins outright.

He has has enjoyed a spike in popularity, particularly among younger voters on TikTok, amid increasing discontent with Mr Macron.

Voters across France and overseas territories can cast ballots for 501 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, the lower and most important of France’s two houses of parliament.

The other 76 races were won outright in the first round of voting.

France’s modern Republic has experienced three cohabitations, the last one under conservative president Jacques Chirac, with socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, from 1997 to 2002.

The prime minister is accountable to the parliament, leads the government and introduces legislation.

The president is weakened at home during cohabitation, but still holds some powers over foreign policy, European affairs and defence and is in charge of negotiating and ratifying international treaties.

The president is also the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, and holds the nuclear codes.

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