Speed Reads

seeking a mandate

French voters head to polls for 1st round of parliamentary elections

French voters headed to the polls Sunday to elect a new National Assembly. President Emmanuel Macron, who defeated right-winger Marine Le Pen to win a second five-year term in April, hopes to gain a strong mandate, while leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon aims to become prime minister.

Macron's centrist coalition, Ensemble (ENS), is running neck-and-neck with Mélenchon's left-wing New Ecologic and Social People's Union (NUPES), according to a survey conducted Friday. The survey showed NUPES and ENS polling at 27 and 28 percent respectively, well within the margin of error. Le Pen's National Rally came in a distant third with 19 percent.

Runoff elections, which will be held June 19, are likely to favor Macron as right-leaning voters hold their noses and vote ENS.

A group of constitutional law experts wrote last week that it would be "paradoxical to see the people make two opposing political choices two months apart," and that a leftist majority in the National Assembly would "deny the new head of state the means to govern."

In previous periods of "cohabitation" — when the president and prime minister are from different parties — the prime minister has assumed responsibility for domestic matters while the president handled foreign policy. The last period of cohabitation ended in 2002.