Le Pen, Mélenchon already looking to 'third round' of parliamentary elections

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Fresh from winning a second term as French president, Emmanuel Macron soon faces another fight that will determine whether he can pursue his agenda - parliamentary elections, described as the "third round" of presidential voting, in which his rivals far-right Marine Le Pen and hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon are looking to deny him a majority.

All 577 deputy seats in the lower-house National Assembly are up for grabs in the votes on 12 and 19 June, and Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party, with 267 MPs currently, is likely to encounter stiff resistance, analysts say.

Yet two polls released just after Macron's victory over far-right challenger Marine Le Pen on Sunday found that two-thirds of French people do not want to hand the president a parliament majority for the next five years.

Le Pen, who scored her Rassemblement National's (National Rally, or RN) highest election result ever at nearly 42 percent, immediately called on her millions of supporters to turn to the "great battle" ahead.

'The great battle'

"Tonight we launch the great battle of the legislative elections," Le Pen said. "I will lead this battle alongside Jordan Bardella, with all those who had the courage to oppose Emmanuel Macron in the second round, with all those who have France at heart."

Le Pen, herself a member of France’s National Assembly since 2017, representing the northern Pas-de-Calais region, sought to present her party as the leading force of opposition to Macron.

"The National Rally will seek to rally those who want to come together and join forces against Emmanuel Macron, wherever they may come from, in order to field and support candidates everywhere," she said.

"We already have 450 candidates lined up," David Rachline, the RN mayor of Frejus in southern France, said at Le Pen's post-election party - currently the party has just eight MPs.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon – the head of La France Insoumise (France unbowed, or LFI) party and l'Union Populaire (Popular Union) - issued a similar plea Sunday by urging an alliance with Communists, Greens and the Socialist party to form a parliament majority that would force Macron to name him prime minister.

His campaign director Manuel Bompard still believes he has a chance. Mélenchon can still be prime minister, "not (just) to be prime minister but to pass his platform, freeze prices, raise the minimum wage, and put in place a sixth Republic", Bompard said.

"Don't give up [...] the third round begins tonight. On 12 and 19 June, another world is still possible if you elect a majority of MPs from the new Popular Union, which must continue to grow.!" Mélenchon, who is an opposition MP since 2017, representing parts of Marseille, said Sunday.

Hostility to Macron has been a key factor in propelling the rise of the extreme right and left, and accounted for historically low turnout in the presidential run-off, when over a third of the electorate either stayed home or cast blank and ineligible ballots.

His pledge to push back the retirement age to 65 -- a reform derailed by widespread strikes two years ago -- has only confirmed his reputation as "president of the rich" among critics.

"The parliamentary vote is going to be difficult, we're not going to see any lift" from Macron's victory, a top official in his party said, asking for anonymity.

(with wires)

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