PARIS (AP) — Voters across mainland France have begun casting ballots Sunday in the first round of exceptional parliamentary election that could put France’s government in the hands of nationalist, far-right forces for the first time since the Nazi era.

The outcome of the two-round election, which will wrap up July 7, could impact European financial markets, Western support for Ukraine and how France’s nuclear arsenal and global military force are managed.

Many French voters are frustrated about inflation and economic concerns, as well as President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership, which they see as arrogant and out-of-touch with their lives. Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Rally party has tapped and fueled that discontent, notably via online platforms like TikTok, and dominated all preelection opinion polls.

A new coalition on the left, the New Popular Front, is also posing a challenge to the pro-business Macron and his centrist alliance Together for the Republic.

After a blitz campaign marred by rising hate speech, voting began early in France’s overseas territories, and polling stations open in mainland France at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) Sunday. The first polling projections are expected at 8 p.m. (1800 GMT), when the final polling stations close, and early official results are expected later Sunday night.

Macron called the early election after his party was trounced in the European Parliament election earlier in June by the National Rally, which has historic ties to racism and antisemitism and is hostile toward France’s Muslim community. It was an audacious gamble that French voters who were complacent about the European Union election would be jolted into turning out for moderate forces in a national election to keep the far right out of power.

Instead, preelection polls suggest that the National Rally is gaining support and has a chance at winning a parliamentary majority. In that scenario, Macron would be expected to name 28-year-old National Rally President Jordan Bardella as prime minister in an awkward power-sharing system known as “cohabitation.”

While Macron has said he won’t step down before his presidential term expires in 2027, cohabitation would weaken him at home and on the world stage.

The results of the first round will give a picture of overall voter sentiment, but not necessarily of the overall makeup of the next National Assembly. Predictions are extremely difficult because of the complicated voting system, and because parties will work between the two rounds to make alliances in some constituencies or pull out of others.

In the past such tactical maneuvers helped keep far-right candidates from power. But now support for Le Pen’s party has spread deep and wide.

Bardella, who has no governing experience, says he would use the powers of prime minister to stop Macron from continuing to supply long-range weapons to Ukraine for the war with Russia. His party has historical ties to Russia.

The party has also questioned the right to citizenship for people born in France, and wants to curtail the rights of French citizens with dual nationality. Critics say this undermines fundamental human rights and is a threat to France’s democratic ideals.

Meanwhile, huge public spending promises by the National Rally and especially the left-wing coalition have shaken markets and ignited worries about France’s heavy debt, already criticized by EU watchdogs.

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