The Macron wave strikes again

Image credit: Claude Truong-Ngoc

Following Emmanuel Macron’s election as president of France and the appointment by the latter of a brand-new government a few weeks ago, it is now time for the French people to elect the deputies who will sit on the red velvet benches of France’s 577-seat parliament: the Assemblée Nationale. Like the country’s presidential poll, this election takes place over two rounds — this year, on 11 and 18 June. It is possible for candidates to win in the first round, providing at least 25 % of the voters registered in their constituency turn out and they secure more than 50 % of the vote. For the remaining seats, the second round is contested by the two best-placed candidates after the first round, with any others who secured more than 12.5 % of the vote.

Macron’s new centrist party looks set to take an overwhelming majority in parliament after the first round of elections held on Sunday (11th). Official final results released early on Monday (12th) showed Macron’s one-year-old La République En Marche and ally MoDem winning 32.32 % in the first round, ahead of Les Républicains and its allies on 21.56 % and the far-right Front National on 13.20 %. The Socialist party — of former president François Hollande — took just 9.5 % of the vote with its allies.

Macron’s movement could, with its centrist allies, go from nought to as many as 430 seats. This would be one of the biggest majorities in France since the end of the second world war.

If Macron’s party does go on to win a landslide victory in the final round on 18 June, it will redraw the landscape of French politics. The traditional left and right parties that dominated parliament for decades were knocked out in the presidential election first round and their representation in parliament is projected to face historic lows. Warnings by the right-wing party, Les Républicains, and the Socialist party, that it would be unhealthy for democracy if Macron’s party won a “monopoly” did not appear to be taken into account by voters.

So, are there reasons to worry that Macron’s highly likely win for a majority of his own party on Sunday could affect democracy? Macron needs a solid parliamentary majority if he is to put in place his plans to loosen France’s extensive labour laws and change the French welfare system on pensions and unemployment benefits. He will be in a much better position than UK Prime Minister Theresa May who faces difficult times with a very low majority in parliament, and thus a weak government. However, the level of abstention for the French parliamentary election is at a high with only 49 % of registered voters having voted in the first round of the election. Macron will have to convince people that his measures are efficient and that he will succeed to make things happen rapidly so that people do not lose the trust that they continuously put in him throughout the presidential and the current parliamentary campaigns, especially when considering that the parliamentary candidates from his own party include a historic number of total newcomers to parliamentary politics, from an ex-bullfighter to a former fighter pilot, a mathematician and an anti-corruption magistrate as well as former local politicians from the right, left and centre.

Earlier this week, Les Républicains candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet was physically assaulted by a man whilst she was in the process of handing out flyers to passers-by’s in a market in Paris where she is running against La République en Marche candidate Gilles Le Gendre. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet is way behind her opponent with more than 20 points separating the two candidates. The aggression, however, shows how disillusioned French people have become in the face of traditional parties. But this is also a reaction to the many unsuccessful years of Les Républicains and the Socialist party alternating ineffective and untruthful leaderships, which have led to people severely distrusting traditional parties. It is thus essential that Macron fulfils his promises. If he wants to prove he can revolutionise the French Republic and democracy, he does not want to commit a single mistake. Indeed, a faux pas and the wave which led him to power will violently wash him away. Macron has given us such hope for a brighter future for France, Europe and the world, that this is the last thing we would want and need to happen in the very difficult worldwide political context that we are in now. Please President Macron, do not let us down, you are our only hope.

 

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