French voters cast their ballots on Sunday in the first round of a parliamentary election expected to give centrist President Emmanuel Macron the strong majority needed to carry out the far-reaching economic and social reforms he promises.
The vote to elect the lower house's 577 members comes a month after Macron, a 39-year-old former banker with little political experience, defied the odds to win the presidency of the euro zone's second-largest economy.
If, as polls project, Macron and his fledgling party win a commanding majority in next week's second round, it will be another blow for the mainstream parties on the right and left which failed to get a candidate into the presidential run-off.
|French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte leave the polling station after voting in the first of two rounds of parliamentary elections in Le Touquet, France, June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
"We want a big majority to be able to act and transform France over the next five years," Mounir Mahjoubi, a tech entrepreneur running under Macron's Republic On The Move (LREM) banner told Reuters as he canvassed support in his northern Paris constituency ahead of the vote.
Opinion polls forecast LREM and its centre-right Modem allies will win at least 30 percent of votes on Sunday.
The conservative The Republicans party and its allies trail with about 20 percent, ahead of the far-right National Front on about 17 percent.
Such an outcome would transform into a landslide majority in the second round, the opinion polls show.
"I think voters are pretty mobilised behind LREM," said Georges Garion, a 64-year-old company manager, before voting began in Paris. "We're seeing a kind of majority cohesion, it's democracy at work."
While predicting the outcome can be tricky with 7,882 candidates vying for parliament's seats, even LREM's rivals have been saying they expect Macron to secure a majority.
Their strategy has been to urge voters to make sure the opposition will be big enough to have some clout in parliament. "We shouldn't have a monopolistic party," former prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve, a Socialist, told Reuters.