Caught in the Middle

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President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance secured the lead in France’s first round of parliamentary elections but faces a tough challenge in the final round against the leftwing bloc of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Financial Times reported Monday.

Results showed that Macron’s “Ensemble” (Together) and the Mélenchon’s red-green New Ecological and Social Popular Union (Nupes) were neck-and-neck with each nearly securing 26 percent of the vote, becoming the two biggest groups in the lower house of parliament, according to Reuters.

The elections were marked by a record low turnout of 47.5 percent for this type of election.

The legislative polls come nearly two months after Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential elections and secured a second five-year term. Mélenchon came in third.

The incumbent has struggled to capitalize on his re-election amid rising inflation. Mélenchon has criticized his opponent for being a free marketeer more willing to help the wealthy, instead of struggling families.

The leftist leader urged voters “to definitively reject Mr. Macron’s disastrous plans” and have their say after “30 years of neoliberalism” in the final round of voting.

Even so, the Nupes alliance is unlikely to secure a majority in the 577-seat assembly because moderate voters remain cautious about Mélenchon’s reputation as an extreme-left, Eurosceptic firebrand.

Polls predict Macron’s Ensemble will remain the largest bloc, gaining between 260 and 295 seats, while Nupes is forecast to win 160 to 210 seats.

A party or alliance needs 289 seats for an outright majority.

Meanwhile, if he fails to get a majority, Macron will be forced to “cohabit” with a government opposed to his economic objectives.

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