Low turnout but big majority ahead for Macron

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Emmanuel Macron's fledging centrist party La République En Marche has launched a drive to get voters out in the second round of the French parliamentary elections after its very strong first round showing was marred by a record low turnout.

To win a seat in the first round of voting, candidates have to win more than half of the votes, which must account for at least a quarter of the registered voters.

"Despite the abstention, the message of the French has no ambiguity: For the third consecutive time, millions of you confirmed your attachment to the president of the republic's project to renew, unite and win back", said Philippe, whom Macron brought in from the mainstream, right-leaning Republican Party.

The right-wing Republicans - who had hoped to rebound from their humiliation in the presidential vote - were shown trailing in second with a predicted 70-130 seats while Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front (FN) was forecast to garner between one and 10 seats.

The fact that one out of every two French voters stayed away from the polls helped Macron and hurt the parties that had already been strongly battered during the presidential elections.

There are 7,782 candidates vying for the 577 seats in the lower house of France's Parliament - so Macron's party needs 289 for a minimum majority.

The FN leader is now a lawmaker in the European Parliament but is hoping to win a legislative seat in France for the first time.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is lamenting "catastrophic" low turnout in the first round of parliamentary elections dominated by President Emmanuel Macron's new centrist party.

Party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis and failed presidential candidate Benoit Hamon both crashed out of the running on Sunday.

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The projections from Sunday's voting show Macron's Republic on the Move movement is in strong position to win the decisive second round vote June 18.

Turnout was sharply down at 49%, compared with the previous election in 2012, when 57% of voters turned out.

Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe, who was appointed by Mr Macron last month, announced "France is back" as the results rolled in.

The party's secretary general, Nicolas Bay, warned of Macron getting "a majority so big that he will have a sort of blank check for the next five years". The Republicans would become the largest opposition force with 80-100 seats, Elabe projected, with the National Front seen winning 1 to four seats and the Socialist Party and other leftists 30-40 seats.

Sunday's results show he will have relatively free rein to push through the ambitious labour, economic and social reforms he promised on the campaign trail.

The former ruling party in France, the Socialists, which was led by Macron's predecessor Francois Hollande, took just 9.5% of the vote with allies and are expected to lose 200 seats.

With 94% of of first-round votes counted, Mr Macron's camp was comfortably leading with more than 32% of the vote.

If no candidate manages to achieve that target, then all candidates who won at least 12.5% of registered voters go to the second round, where the victor will advance to Parliament.

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