France votes in snap election that could make history

Voters in France are heading to the polls today for a parliamentary election that could usher in the country's first far-right government since the Second World War.

French President Emmanuel Macron called a surprise vote after his centrist alliance was soundly beaten in the European elections by Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally earlier this month.

Voting began at 8am (7am UK time), closing at 4pm in smaller towns and 6pm in bigger cities. A winner may be apparent on Sunday night.

At 5pm local time, turnout was the highest it has been at the same point in the day for more than 20 years - at 59.4%.

France has a semi-presidential system, which means it has both a president and a prime minister.

The voting taking place today will determine who is prime minister but not president, with Mr Macron already set on remaining in his role until the end of his term in 2027.

If Ms Le Pen's party wins an absolute majority, France would have a government and president from opposing political camps for only the fourth time in post-war history.

Her protege 28-year-old Jordan Bardella would be prime minister if the party wins outright.

How does the election work?

There are 577 constituency contests, one for each seat in the National Assembly, which is the lower house of parliament.

Candidates with an absolute majority of votes in their constituency are elected in the first round.

In most cases, no candidate meets this criteria and a second round is held, which will be next Sunday - 7 July - when the final outcome will be confirmed.

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To qualify for the run-off, candidates need first-round votes amounting to at least 12.5% of registered voters.

The top scorer wins the second round.

When will we have a result?

Voting ends at 8pm (7pm UK time), when pollsters publish nationwide projections based on a partial vote count.

Official results start trickling in, with counting usually fast and efficient and the winners of almost all seats likely to be known by the end of the evening.