France votes in crucial test for Macron

STORY: Voters were heading to the polls in France on Sunday in an election that could frustrate President Emmanuel Macron's plans.

This poll will determine whether Macron gets a working majority in parliament or ends up without the support needed to drive through his reform agenda.

Less than two months after his re-election, the president is facing a strong challenge from a united left-wing bloc.

Polls suggest it could deprive Macron of an outright majority, even if it does not take control of parliament.

Hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon is hoping to capitalize on anger in France over a rising cost of living.

Government insiders expect a rather poor showing in Sunday's first round for Macron's "Ensemble" coalition.

Record numbers of voters are expected to abstain.

Geography student Capucine Bourgin, speaking outside a polling station in Paris, described that as a "pity".

"... because during the presidential election, people really mobilised. I had queued here for an hour and a half, and today there is nobody. I think it is really a pity because parliamentary elections are important. I hope the youth will go out and vote."

At risk is Macron's ability to pass his reform agenda, including pension changes he says are essential to restore public finances.

His opponents on the left are pushing to cut the pension age and launch a big spending drive.