Final campaign push as parliamentary polls put France's Macron to the test

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President Emmanuel Macron and his allies are making one last push for votes ahead of Sunday's final round of parliamentary elections. The French leader could lose his overall majority in the face of a left-wing alliance, complicating his plans for a second term of reforms.

Macron's LREM party and its centrist Modem allies hold 315 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly.

That comfortable majority has allowed the President to push through major tax and labour law reforms, despite opposition.

To continue that reform programme, notably pushing back the age of retirement from 62 to 65, Macron and his allies need to win 289 seats.

But it's far from a done deal.

His "Ensemble" coalition of centrist and centre-right parties is facing an unexpected challenge from the new left-wing NUPES alliance, headed up hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

In the first round last Sunday, the two sides came out neck-and-neck with 25.75 percent and 25.66 percent respectively.

According to the latest poll by Ifop-Fiducial for LCI and Sud Radio, Ensemble is projected to get 265-300 seats against 180-210 for the left, meaning that overall majority of at least 289 seats is far from assured.

Martin Quencez, a research fellow at the German Marshall Fund, said it would be crucial for Macron to mobilise right-wing voters.

"If you compare the first round of presidential elections to the first round of the parliamentary elections, you find that Macron has lost about four million voters," he said.

Turnout in last Sunday's first round was a record low of 47.5 percent.

Similarly low turnout could impact the left's chances in particular as it is more dependent on young and working-class voters. Macron and his allies are more popular among the over 60s who are more likely to vote in general.

Back into the fray

Macron returned to the domestic political fray on Friday after three days abroad which ended with a visit to Ukraine to meet President Zelensky.

Mélenchon's allies slammed the President's trip to Kyiv, accusing him of using the Ukraine crisis to grandstand instead of addressing everyday French concerns, including soaring inflation.

Mélenchon is urging voters to deny Macron another majority, though opinion polls indicate the left is unlikely to win an outright majority itself.

An Odoxa poll published Friday by Le Figaro found that 70 percent of voters do not want Macron to have a majority after the second-round run-off.

Macron said the Ukraine crisis, "which is going to impact us significantly", meant that France could not afford to be divided.

"If our country can unite, come together while respecting our differences, we can come out stronger from this crisis," he told BFM TV in an interview on Friday.

Campaign 'caricature'

French daily Le Monde wrote Thursday that the campaign since the first round had descended into "caricature... rather than discussing the serious issues of the moment".

With most cabinet ministers standing for election and Macron insisting that those who lose should step down, election night promises to be a nervous time for some big names.

Europe Minister Clement Beaune is facing a tough challenge from the left in his Paris constituency, while Environment Minister Amelie de Montchalin is far from assured of winning her seat in the Essonne region south of Paris.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally is projected by most polls to exceed the minimum of 15 MPs needed to form an official group in parliament – for the first time since 1986.

(with AFP)

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