French Voter Turnout Soars in First Round of Snap Election

(Bloomberg) -- French voters are turning out at the highest level in nearly 40 years for the first round of a snap legislative election that has seen the far-right National Rally dominating the polls.

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Figures show 59.4% of registered voters had cast a ballot as of 5 p.m. Paris time, compared with 39.4% at the same time in the last vote two years ago, according to the Interior Ministry.

Final turnout is expected to reach just over 69%, according to the average of four polling companies. That would be the highest since 78.5% in 1986, according to past figures provided by polling company Ipsos.

President Emmanuel Macron’s surprise move to dissolve the National Assembly has opened the door to Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party forming the next government.

Before a blackout on Friday night, polls showed her group and allies on track to win the largest number of seats in parliament, behind the leftist New Popular Front alliance. Macron’s group was in third.

A high turnout could have a significant influence on the final outcome because it increases the likelihood of three candidates having enough votes to go through to runoffs on July 7. That opens the possibility of one dropping out to divert support to a candidate better placed against the far right, among other options.

“The explosion of three-way runoffs is unprecedented,” Brice Teinturier, of polling company Ipsos, told Le Parisien newspaper, adding that voting behavior may differ from in 2022 given the National Rally has never been so close to power.

In 2022, there were only eight three-way runoffs with a final turnout at 47.51% of registered voters. According to a poll of 2,005 adults by Odoxa on June 26-27, that could rise to between 64% and 68%, leading to between 160 and 200 second-round votes involving more than two candidates.

Projections of first-round results will be published from 8 p.m.

(Updates with estimate of final turnout in third paragraph.)

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