Voters handed Emmanuel Macron’s party a solid majority of seats in the National Assembly

Voters handed Emmanuel Macron’s party a solid majority of seats in the National Assembly

Paris, June19:THE final piece of France’s electoral puzzle fell into place on Sunday evening, when voters handed Emmanuel Macron’s party a solid majority of seats in the National Assembly. After polling stations closed on June 18th, it soon became clear that La République en Marche! (LRM), the president’s political movement, had won about 359 of the 577 seats. This gives Mr Macron a handsome working majority with which to start work on his programme of reforms.

It was a measure of how quickly expectations in France have shifted that LRM’s final result was considered in some ways disappointing. After first-round voting on June 11th, polls suggested that LRM might grab over 400 seats. The abstention rate, at fully 57%, was historically high for a second-round parliamentary vote, possibly because voters considered the result a foregone conclusion. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left Unsubmissive France party, who won a seat in Marseille, declared that the low turnout rate constituted a “civic general strike” against the new president.

 Yet the underlying picture is nonetheless extraordinary. A centrist political movement that did not exist 15 months ago is about to take over the legislature. Starting Monday, scores of freshly elected deputies who have never run for election before, among them entrepreneurs, teachers and farmers, will step inside the National Assembly. The centre-right Republicans and their allies, who once believed they would sweep to victory this year after five years of Socialist rule, are expected to hold on to an estimated 131 seats. They will become the main opposition party, but with reduced numbers. The Socialists lost 90% of their seats, having kept just 28. “The collapse of the Socialist Party is beyond doubt,” said Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, who resigned as party leader and did not even make it into the run-off vote.

There were a number of symbolic victories and defeats. Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front (FN), was elected in a constituency in the former coal-mining region of northern France, and will become a deputy for the first time. Her party will have a total of about eight members of parliament, fewer than she had hoped for, but up from the previous tally of just two. Her lieutenant, Florian Philippot, who was the architect of her anti-euro policy, failed to win a seat in eastern France. His position in the party, as well as the FN’s line on the single currency, looks at risk.

Mr Macron is now in an unusually strong position to press ahead with his broadly business-friendly programme, and to strengthen the euro zone. He has promised to begin this summer by pushing through an initial batch of reforms to the labour market, in order to free up job creation. Ultimately, he will be judged on his results, and whether he can make a proper dent in France’s unemployment rate of 10%. But he has already defied the rules, and proven his doubters wrong, by blasting a hole through French party politics and transforming the face of the National Assembly.

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