Preliminary results have shown French President Emmanuel Macron's party with over 30 percent of the vote, ahead of the conservatives and far right in the first round. The poll was marked by the lowest turnout in decades.
French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist La Republique En Marche! (LREM) party won over 30 percent of the vote in France's first round of parliamentary elections on Sunday, according to official results after 21 million votes were counted.
If the first-round trend is confirmed, next Sunday's second and final round would see a huge majority of between 415 and 455 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly for Macron's LREM and its ally Modem.
"The French people have shown that they want us to move quickly," said government spokesman Christophe Castaner.
Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated President Macron on Sunday night, saying "My heartfelt congratulations to Emmanuel Macron for the great success of his party in the first round. A strong vote for reforms."
The far-right Front National (FN) party of former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen is projected to win 14 percent of the vote, relatively unchanged from its performance in the 2012 election but an eight-per-cent collapse compared to the presidential election last month.
The conservative Republicans and allies are projected to win 21 percent of the vote, while the far-left party of Jean-Luc Melenchon is set to pick up 11 percent. The Socialist Party, which had dominated the outgoing lower house, is likely to pick up just 7 percent.
Socialist former presidential candidate Benoit Hamon led the names in his party who were eliminated in the first round. Segolene Royal, Patrick Mennucci and former Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti also lost.
"It is neither healthy nor desirable for a president who gathered only 24 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election and who was elected in the second round only by the rejection of the extreme right should benefit from a monopoly of national representation," said Socialist party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, who was also eliminated in the first round on Sunday. The party may not even reach the 15-seat target in order to be able to form a group in the assembly.
Historically low turnout
The French interior ministry said voter turnout hit about 41 percent by late afternoon, marking a significant drop since the 2012 vote that saw 48 percent voter participation. The ministry later said that voter abstention rate was 51.4 percent.
En Marche! candidates include Marie Sara, a retired bullfighter, who went through to a runoff against FN veteran Gilbert Collard in southern France, and star mathematician Cedric Villani.
Ipsos France reported only 35-37 percent of voters aged 18-34 had voted. Over 60 percent of voters aged 60 or more did turn out.
Macron needs a parliamentary majority in the lower house in order to push through some of his more controversial legislation, such as labor and economic reforms.
Very few lawmakers are expected to be elected directly in Sunday's first round as they would need more than half of the votes cast in their district. The top two vote getters and any candidate who receives at least 12.5 percent of the vote moves on to the second round slated for June 18.
There are a total of 7,882 candidates competing for the 577 seats in parliament.
ls/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa