France Centrists, New Far-Left Running Neck-and-Neck in Legislative Polls

France’s ruling centrists and a new far-left alliance are neck-and-neck in the first round of legislative elections Sunday, with the far-right third in the lineup. Initial projections put the Ensemble or “Together” party of French President Emmanuel Macron and the left-wing NUPES coalition with just over a quarter of all votes apiece, amid record abstentions.

It’s hard to find a supporter of centrist President Emmanuel Macron and his party in a working-class neighborhood in northeastern Paris.

Martine Barratte, leaving a polling station with her husband and eight-year-old daughter, has just cast her ballot for a left-wing coalition and its leading force, Jean-Luc Melenchon.

“I’ve got big hopes…I wish a better world for my daughter. Social issues and ecology are linked together. I think Melenchon is the one because he’s got loads of teams around him. Men and women who think, who are looking forward to changing things, because we need to change,” she said.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left France Unbowed party, is not on the ballot. But he has managed to forge an unlikely alliance among normally squabbling leftist parties. If they win the majority of National Assembly or lower house seats, Melenchon hopes to force President Emmanuel Macron to choose him as prime minister.

Vianney Mosser voted for the leftist alliance, known as the New Ecological and Social Popular Union, or NUPES. Mosser says he doesn’t agree with everything on their platform. But he doesn’t want Macron to have an absolute majority.

Ahead of this first round, polls showed the NUPES and Macron’s centrist Ensemble or Together coalition neck-and-neck. The far right, which only has a few lower house seats, also stands to gain.

Analyst Lisa Thomas-Darbois, of the Paris-based Montaigne Institute research group, says both the far-right and the far-left want to be a real counter force to proposed and controversial reforms by Macron, who was reelected in April for a second five-year term.

Still a number of voters are underwhelmed with Macron. They backed him only to block his far-right presidential rival.

Retiree Ally Shetty is also voting for the leftist alliance. Shetty says she thinks they’d do a better job fighting unemployment. Her daughter, who has a master’s degree, can’t find work.

Macron and his party warn a far-left win could undermine key reforms and reduce France’s competitiveness. A recent poll shows that while most French want a political counter force to the president’s centrists in parliament, most do not want far-left leader Melenchon as prime minister.

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