President Francois Hollande’s Socialist and their allies are on course for a majority following the first round of voting in France’s legislative elections, exit polls suggest.
The Socialists appear tied with the right-wing UMP party on about 35% of the vote, but the support of Green allies gives them closer to 40%.
The outcome of the polls is expected to determine the extent and pace of reform under new President Francois Hollande.
Run-offs are to be held a week later.
The early indications are that turnout has been much lower than in the presidential elections in April, at about 60%.
France’s 46 million eligible voters are picking representatives for 577 seats in the National Assembly
The TNS-Sofres, CSA, Ipsos and Ifop polling agencies estimated that the Socialists – and their allies – won 31-35% of the vote, while the UMP – party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy – won 34-35%, the Associated Press reported.
But the projections show other leftist parties – expected to back Mr Hollande – winning another 12-13%.
The BBC’s Christian Fraser, in Paris, says that with the Senate already under the control of the Socialists, a majority in the lower house would give Francois Hollande unprecedented power to force through his reform programme.
Mr Hollande’s government is due to present a revised budget plan to parliament next month.
The result of the parliamentary election will determine the pace of reform and how radical it becomes, our correspondent says.
The election also saw a surge in support for Marine Le Pen’s far right National Front, which won almost 14% of votes, according to the exit polls.
*Article by BBC*