The far-right National Front party of former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was dealt a huge blow in Sunday’s first round parliamentary elections in France, and is now predicted to win as few as four of the 577 seats up for grabs. Newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron on the other hand is celebrating a stunning victory for his En Marche party, which is on course to win a huge majority and, with it, a mandate to enact his sweeping reforms.
Voting in the first round election for France’s National Assembly took place Sunday, and initial projections indicate that La Republique en Marche, a party founded just over a year ago, could break all records by taking as many as 445 seats in the new parliament, garnering almost 33 percent of the vote.
The result for Macron stands in stark contrast to that of Le Pen, who has seen her party’s share of the vote fall from 23 percent in the first round of the presidential elections to just 13 percent on Sunday, with pollsters predicting the party will win between one and four seats following next Sunday’s second round of voting.
The one negative for Macron will be the historically low voter turnout, with just 49 percent of registered voters electing to cast their ballot. The low turnout was used as an excuse by Le Pen for her party’s poor showing. “This catastrophic abstention rate should raise the question of the voting rules which keep millions of our compatriots away from the polling stations,” she said. “There are a pathetically low number of three-way races.”
The victory for the pro-Europe En Marche candidates in France, stands in stark contrast with the disastrous results suffered by Theresa May’s Conservative party in the U.K., after the prime minister called a snap election to boost her majority ahead of Brexit negotiations that are due to start next week.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, congratulated Macron on his party’s victory. “My heartfelt congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on the great success of his party in the first ballot,” Merkel was quoted as saying by government spokesman Steffen Seibert on Twitter.
Here’s what you need to know:
- The election victory is a stunning one for Macron and the En Marche movement given that it was founded just 14 months ago. Following Macron’s victory in May’s presidential election, many suggested the party would be unable to provide the necessary parliamentary backing for Macron, given it didn’t appear to have sufficient candidates to contest the election.
- However, after 19,000 applied to be En Marche candidates, the party interviewed more than 1,700 of them, and chose 526 candidates, half of whom were women and 219 of whom never ran for political office previously. The candidates included a retired bull-fighter, a Nobel prize winning mathematician and a former fighter pilot.
- If the results pan out as expected for Macron, he will have a huge majority to help him enact social and economic reforms, including relaxing employment laws, cutting corporation tax and investing huge sums in training and renewable energy.
- The meteoric rise of Macron and En Marche has coincided with the collapse in support for France’s mainstream political parties. The Republicans are still reeling from the failure of their candidate Francois Fillon to make the final run-off in the presidential debate, following a financial scandal. Exit polls suggest the party will secure between 80 and 100 seats in the new parliament.
- The other mainstream party, the Socialists, are also struggling, as a result of the historically low support for former president Francois Hollande and high unemployment rates. Of the 384 seats the party currently holds, it is expected to retain less than 30.
- To win a seat in the first round of voting, candidates needed to win over 50 percent of the votes cast and that much account for at least 25 percent of registered voters. Given the fact that just 49 percent of people votes — the lowest turnout since 1958 — most constituencies will need a second round of voting, with all candidates who won at least 12.5 percent of registered voters advancing to the second round, which is a straight run-off.