Macron casts ballot in French parliamentary vote

French polling agencies are projecting that President Emmanuel Macron's new centrist party will have a large majority in the powerful lower house of parliament and a clear mandate to overhaul the way France works and does business.

Macron's year-old Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) and their allies were set to win between 355 and 403 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, based on partial results after the second round of an election which has swept away many high-profile figures.

The Socialist Party, which ruled France until last month, faces a humiliating defeat, which could see them with no more than 25-35 seats.

Without a strong mandate, he will be operating without the backing of the majority of the French people.

Marin Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Front and Macron's runoff opponent on May 14, is running for a seat in Hénin-Beaumont in northern France.

LREM and its allies, holders of an absolute majority at the National Assembly, will hold all the institutional levers to pass controversial reform of the labor market, a pro-business mechanism to accelerate growth and set on ground a plan for new anti-graft legislation with which Macron wants to impose new ethics in public life after fraud scandals overshadowed France's 2017 presidency campaign.

To win a seat outright in the first round of voting, candidates had to win more than half of the votes, which must account for at least a quarter of the registered voters. By midday Sunday, only 17.75 percent of voters had cast a ballot, down from the 21.41 percent recorded at the same time of day during the 2012 parliamentary run-off vote.

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The victor from the second round will then advance to Parliament. Overall, the first-round vote saw record low voter interest, with less than half of France's 47.5 million voters taking part overall.

Macron cast his vote early in the morning in the seaside resort of Le Touquet before flying to a ceremony outside Paris to mark the anniversary of Charles de Gaulle's 1940 appeal for French resistance to Nazi Germany's occupation. Before voting closed, pollsters had predicted LREM to win between 400 and 470 seats in parliament.

"Go and vote!" Prime Minister Edouard Philippe urged on Thursday, calling it both "a right and a responsibility".

Le Pen's victory was a rare bright spot for Le Pen's nationalist and anti-EU party which was once hoping to emerge as the principal opposition to Macron but is now expected to have only a handful of lawmakers.

The far-right Front National, which now has two seats in parliament, was predicted to win up to eight seats, better than its first-round showing had indicated.

Jean-Luc Melenchon's far-left La France insoumise (Unbowed France) party and its Communist supporters are expected to hold 30 seats. Experts partly blamed voter fatigue following the May election of Macron, plus voter disappointment with politics.

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