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LIVE UPDATES: French election voting ends; forecasts show no party winning outright majority

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Aurelien Brittain

A polling station in Paris during the second round of voting in France’s parliamentary elections on Sunday.Credit…Mauricio Lima of The New York Times

French voters returned to the polls Sunday for the second and final round of voting to elect representatives to the 577-seat National Assembly, the lower and more important chamber of France’s parliament.

The election is crucial for Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron as the nationalist, anti-immigrant National Rally is expected to do well, but political deadlock is likely to persist for months to come.

France has 577 constituencies, each with one seat, covering metropolitan France, overseas departments and territories, as well as French citizens living abroad. France awards seats to the candidate who receives the most votes in each constituency.

In the first round of elections held a week ago, 76 legislative seats were won outright. The remaining seats went into a runoff, which will be held on Sunday.

While any number of candidates can participate in the first round of voting in each constituency, there are specific thresholds for entering the second round of voting. In most cases, the runoff will produce the two candidates with the most votes, but in some cases there may be three or even four candidates who have received at least 12.5% ​​of the votes of registered voters in their respective constituencies.

High voter turnout after the first round of elections last week led to more than 300 three-way runoffs. But left-wing parties and Macron’s centrist coalition withdrew more than 200 candidates from the three-way runoffs to avoid splitting the vote and prevent the National Rally from winning an outright majority. As a result, fewer than 100 three-way runoffs remain on Sunday.

The person who receives the most votes in the runoff will win the election.

Polls will close at 6pm local time (12pm ET) in most of France, but voting will continue until 8pm in some larger cities.

France’s Interior Ministry is expected to begin announcing preliminary results at 8 p.m. (2 p.m. ET), and pollsters are expected to release national seat projections around the same time.

If the National Rally, which won the most votes in the first round of elections, and its allies win a majority in the National Assembly, Macron will have no choice but to appoint a prime minister from a far-right party, which would put France’s domestic policies completely in the hands of the far right and could disrupt Macron’s defense and foreign policies.

Without a clear majority, Mr Macron’s options will be very limited.

He could try to forge a new coalition, but that could be challenging. The three main political blocs — the far right, the left coalition and Macron’s centrist League — have radically different agendas and, in some cases, are deeply hostile to one another.

If he fails to muster a majority, the country could face months of political deadlock or turmoil. Macron has ruled out resigning. New legislative elections cannot be called Another year later.

One possibility being discussed by analysts is the creation of a caretaker government to run the country’s day-to-day affairs until a political breakthrough emerges, as Happened in Belgium. But this also departs from French tradition.

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