France is about to vote in a high-stakes parliamentary election that could deprive centrist President Emmanuel Macron of the absolute majority he needs to govern with a free hand.
The second round of voting begins at 8am on Sunday (1600 AEST), with initial projections expected at 8pm in an election that could change the face of French politics.
Pollsters predict Macron’s camp will end up with the biggest number of seats, but say it is in no way guaranteed to reach the 289 threshold for an absolute majority.
Opinion polls also see the far right likely to score its biggest parliamentary success in decades, while a broad left-green alliance could become the largest opposition group and the conservatives find themselves as kingmakers.
If Macron’s camp does fall short of an outright majority, that would open a period of uncertainty that could be solved by a degree of power-sharing among parties unheard of in France in past decades, or result in protracted paralysis and repeat parliamentary elections down the line.
Macron, who wants to push up the retirement age, pursue his pro-business agenda and further European Union integration, won a second term in April.
After electing a president, French voters have traditionally used legislative polls that follow a few weeks later to hand him a comfortable parliamentary majority, with Francois Mitterand in 1988 a rare exception.
Macron and his allies could still achieve that. But the rejuvenated left is putting up a tough challenge, as rampant inflation that drives up the cost of living sends shockwaves through the French political landscape.