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France votes for new parliament

PARIS – French voters went back to the polls yesterday for the first round of parliamentary elections that are tipped to give President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party a commanding majority.

Voter picks up ballots at a polling station before voting for the first round of parliamentary elections in Marseille, southern France, Sunday, June 11, 2017. French voters are choosing lawmakers in the lower house of parliament in a vote that is crucial for newly-elected president Emmanuel Macron. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)Polling stations opened across France at 8 a.m. (2 p.m. yesterday Manila time) and voting will continue in the largest cities until 8 p.m. (2 a.m. today Manila time) with exit polls released immediately afterwards.

Macron has enjoyed a smooth start in the five weeks since he beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to become France’s youngest-ever President, naming a cabinet that crosses left-right lines and making a big impression at international summits.

His untested Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) party, which he only founded in April 2016, now needs a clear majority in the National Assembly for him to push through the reforms he has promised.

A host of opinion polls show Macron’s party taking around 30 percent of the vote yesterday, putting it in pole position to secure a landslide in the second round next Sunday.

Some predictions show REM could take around 400 seats in the 577-seat chamber. The party has already had a boost after its candidates came first in 10 of the 11 French overseas constituencies that voted before the mainland.

If no candidate wins over 50 percent in the first round, the two top-placed go into the second round – as well as any candidate who won the votes of over 12.5 percent of the electorate.

More than 50,000 police will be on patrol in a country still under a state of emergency following a wave of attacks that have killed more than 230 people since 2015. (AFP)