Millions of French vote in snap polls

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The two-round vote could put the far-right in power in France for the first time

Agencies

PARIS: French voters turned out in large numbers on Sunday for the first round of high-stakes snap parliamentary elections which could alter France’s trajectory and see the far-right party of Marine Le Pen take power in a historic first.

President Emmanuel Macron stunned the nation by calling snap polls after the far-right National Rally (RN) party’s strong showing in European Parliament elections this month.

With Russia’s war against Ukraine in its third year and energy and food prices much higher, support for the anti-immigration and eurosceptic party has surged despite Macron’s pledges to prevent its ascent.

The two-round vote could put the far-right in power in France for the first time since the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Presented with a crucial choice about France’s future, many said they could not stay home, while political observers pointed to the highest voter turnout in decades.

In the southern city of Marseille, Nabil Agueni said he skipped the European elections but voted on Sunday.

“As long as we have a choice, it’s better to go and vote”, the 40-year-old said.

In the southwestern city of Bordeaux, Roxane Lebrun, 40, sounded worried.

“I don’t recognise my country anymore,” she said. “We have to keep fighting for what we believe in and what we want for France.”

Julien Martin, a 38-year-old architect, added: “These are not easy elections, the results are very uncertain, and the repercussions could be serious for society.”

Macron and his wife Brigitte cast their ballots in Le Touquet in northern France, with the 46-year-old president seen taking selfies and mingling with supporters.

As of noon, turnout in mainland France stood at 25.90 percent, an increase from the 18.43 percent recorded in legislative elections in 2022.

“This is the highest level since the 1981 legislative elections,” Mathieu Gallard, research director at the Ipsos polling institute, said on X (formerly Twitter).

According to most polls, the RN party is on course to win the largest number of seats in the National Assembly, parliament’s lower house, although it remains unclear if it will secure an outright majority.