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Socialists chase majority as France votes in parliamentary elections

France is voting today for the first round of parliamentary elections, with Socialist Party of President Francois Hollande expected to receive a narrow majority – and the mandate it needs to push through tax reforms.

Marine Le Pen Front National FranceEnlarge
Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right Front National, came third in the first round of France's presidential election with 17.9 percent of the vote. (JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

PARIS, France — France is voting today for the first round of parliamentary elections, with Socialist Party of President Francois Hollande expected to receive a narrow majority – and the mandate it needs to push through tax reforms, Agence France Presse reported.

However there are fears that abstention rates could hit as much as 40 percent among the 46 million people eligible to vote.

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Ahead of the vote, Hollande, appealed to the French people to cast their ballot:

"I will only be able to bring about change, the change that the French have asked me to bring about, if I have a majority in the National Assembly."

A total of 557 seats are up for grabs in the National Assembly, with more than 6,000 candidates vying for a chance to enter parliament.

As many as 1.5 million people already cast their ballots on Saturday in France’s outer territories, such as Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, which is off the coast of Canada and New Caledonia, in the South Pacific.

The far left will battle the far right in some constituencies, with the most closely watched contest between the Left Front's leader, Jean Luc Melenchon, and the National Front's Marine Le Pen in Henin-Beaumont, in northern France.

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Le Pen, whose anti-immigration party came third in April's presidential election, is contesting the vote along with 570 other National Front candidates, Radio France Internationale reported.

After coming in fourth in the presidentials, Mélenchon announced he would challenge Le Pen in Henin-Beaumont, an economically depressed town of 26,000 people – which neither candidate calls home.

Since beating Sarkozy by taking 51.6 percent of the vote in the May 6 presidential run-off, Hollande has cut his ministers' salaries by 30 percent and lowered the retirement age from 62 to 60 for some workers.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the measures would give the Socialist Party an edge in these elections, AFP reported.

The last polling booths in France close at 8pm tonight, with campaigning for next week's second round vote, on June 17, to start on Monday.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/france/120610/france-voting-parliamentary-elections