French voters are going to the polls in an election that could see a left-wing coalition deprive Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance of a parliamentary majority.
While polling suggests Mr Macron‘s camp will take the largest number of seats, it remains unclear whether it will reach the 289 threshold needed for an absolute majority in the National Assembly.
It is opposed by a coalition of socialists and greens known as the New Ecologic and Social People’s Union (NUPES) led by Jean-Luc Melenchon, 70.
The number of seats Mr Macron’s side is expected to take is put as low as 255, and as high as 300-plus.
While no poll has predicted a NUPES majority, it could become the largest opposition grouping, possibly breaching the 200 mark.
Complicating things further, the far right is being tipped to achieve its biggest parliamentary success in decades.
Mr Macron, who wants to implement tax cuts, raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 and increase European Union integration, could be plunged into a series of protracted negotiations on domestic policy at a time when the war in Ukraine has put foreign concerns centre stage.
As in the UK, however, rising inflation is causing unrest and political volatility.
“In these troubled times, the choice you’ll make this Sunday is more crucial than ever,” Mr Macron said on Tuesday prior to visiting Kyiv.
“Nothing would be worse than adding French disorder to the world’s disorder.”
If his camp does fall short of an overall majority, it could cause political paralysis and repeat parliamentary elections.
It would also be unusual – after electing a president, French voters have generally handed them a comfortable parliamentary majority a few weeks later, with Francois Mitterrand a rare exception in 1988.
If Mr Macron’s coalition misses out on an overall majority by a few seats, it may be tempted to poach MPs from the centre-right or conservatives, officials in those parties have said.
If it misses by a wider margin, it could seek an alliance with the conservatives or run a minority government that will have to negotiate laws on a case-by-case basis.
Voting began at 8am local time (0700 BST), with initial projections expected at 8pm (1900 BST).