The French president hopes to secure a clear majority to implement tough reforms.
Voting has begun in France for the second-round parliamentary election, with an increase in support for the left-wing alliance that threatens the newly re-elected president Emmanuel Macron’s hopes for a clear majority.
Voting starts at 08.00 (06.00 GMT) on Sunday and ends at 20.00.
Macron faces a challenge from NUPES, a new left-wing alliance led by former socialist Jean-Luc Melenchon. The rejuvenated left is fighting while violent inflation is driving up the cost of living and sending shockwaves through the French political landscape.
In the first round of voting last Sunday, the two sides were neck-to-neck with around 26 percent. In the second round, the initial field of candidates in almost all 577 constituencies has been reduced to two head-to-head participants.
Macron’s coalition hopes to win a clear majority of 289 seats to implement tough reforms.
Opinion polls predict Macron’s “Ensemble” (Together) coalition of center and center parties will end up with the largest number of seats, but say it is by no means guaranteed to reach the threshold of absolute majority.
The far right is also likely to achieve its greatest parliamentary success in decades.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, who reports from Paris, said the center-right and left coalitions have “radically different ideas about what to do in the face of France’s problems.”
The centrists aim to lower taxes, reform the welfare system’s benefits and raise the retirement age, while the left plans to tax the rich, raise the minimum wage and lower the retirement age.
Failure to achieve a direct majority will require a certain degree of division of power between the parties – unheard of in France for decades – or result in prolonged paralysis and repeated parliamentary elections.
If Macron and his allies miss out on an absolute majority with just a few seats, they could steal MPs from the center-right or conservatives. If they miss it by a larger margin, they can either seek an alliance with the Conservatives or run a minority government that must negotiate laws on a case-by-case basis with other parties.
Hull said that less than half of France’s voters went to the polls in the first round, which raised concerns about turnout. “Low turnout will tend not to favor the incumbent operators,” he added.
The turnout at noon was 18.99 percent, higher than at the same time during a first round of elections last Sunday and than in 2017, when it reached 18.43 percent and 17.75 percent, respectively.
Macron won another period in April, defeating his far-right rival Marine Le Pen by a comfortable margin. After electing a president, French voters have traditionally used legislative polls that follow a few weeks later to give their newly elected leader a comfortable parliamentary majority.