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France votes in final round of ‘seismic’ election – World

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PARIS — French voters turned out in numbers on Sunday for the second round of a historic election that was expected to leave the far right as the biggest force in a deeply divided parliament.

At midday, according to Interior Ministry figures, some 26.63 percent of voters had turned out for the high-stakes poll, the highest number at that time since 1981.

The mood in France was tense, with 30,000 police deployed to head off trouble and voters anxious about a potential electoral earthquake shifting the French political landscape.

In the village of Rosheim, outside the eastern city of Strasbourg, an “anguished” 72-year-old Antoine Schrameck said he feared France would see “a turning point in the history of the republic”.

And in Tourcoing, near the northeast city of Lille, Laurence Abbad, 66, said she feared violence after the results were announced. “There’s so much tension, people are going mad.”

President Emmanuel Macron called the snap elections three years ahead of time after his forces were trounced in last month’s European Parliament vote, a gamble that seems to have backfired.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, or RN, came top in the first round on June 30, and was on course to repeat the feat in Sunday’s runoff races.

But she may not win the outright majority that would force Macron to appoint Le Pen’s lieutenant, the RN leader Jordan Bardella, 28, as prime minister just weeks before Paris hosts the Olympic Games.

A hung parliament with a large euroskeptic, anti-immigration contingent could weaken France’s international standing and threaten Western unity in the face of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

European Union officials, already learning to deal with far-right parties in power in Italy and the Netherlands, are watching France closely.

With the country on tenterhooks, more than 200 tactical-voting pacts were formed between center and left-wing candidates over the past week in seats to attempt to prevent the RN winning an absolute majority.

Opinion polls forecast that the RN would fall well short of the 289 seats needed for an outright majority in the 577-seat National Assembly, while still becoming the largest party.

“France is on the cusp of a seismic political shift,” said analysts at the European Council on Foreign Relations, warning that even if Macron controlled the government after the election he would face “legislative gridlocks”. This would weaken “France’s voice on the European and international stage”, they said.

Agencies via Xinhua

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