Macron wins commanding parliamentary majority, estimates show
President Emmanuel Macron won a commanding majority in France’s parliamentary election on Sunday, pollsters’ estimates showed, sweeping aside the mainstream parties and securing a powerful mandate to push through his pro-business reforms.
The result, if confirmed, redraws France’s political landscape, humiliating the traditional Socialist and conservative parties that alternated in power for decades until Macron’s election in May blew apart the left-right divide.
Two pollsters projected that Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) and its Modem allies would win 355-360 seats in the 577-seat lower house, lower than previously forecast.
A third poll by Elabe showed a far bigger majority, projecting 395-425 seats from the Macron alliance.
The three projections predicted the conservative The Republicans and its allies would form the largest opposition block with 97-133 seats while the Socialist Party, in power for the last five years, and its partners would secure 29-49 seats, their lowest ever.
Marine Le Pen, Macron’s arch-rival on the far right, may get four to eight seats, they said.
The scale of the majority hands Macron, a pro-European Union centrist, a strong platform from which to make good on campaign promises to revive France’s fortunes by cleaning up politics and relaxing regulations that investors say shackle the euro zone’s second-biggest economy.
UPDATE: French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday won a seat in France’s parliament, as did her partner Louis Aliot, but two of her top aides were eliminated in a night where her arch rival Emmanuel Macron’s party swept to power with a huge majority.
Florian Philippot, her righthand man in the National Front (FN), failed to win the seat he was fighting, and Gilbert Collard, another top adviser who was one of only two far-right lawmakers in the 2012-2017 parliament, lost his seat.
UPDATE: Final voter turnout in the second round of France’s parliamentary election is estimated by pollsters at between 42 and 43 percent after official data showed 35.33 percent of the voters turned up to cast their ballot by 1700 (1500 GMT).
French pollster Elabe estimated the turnout at 42 percent, while Ipsos/Sopra Steria forecast it at around 43 percent.
That would be even lower than the 48.7 percent seen in a June 11 first round of voting, while the turnout in the second round of 2012 elections was 55.4 percent.
The turnout at 1500 GMT on Sunday was at its lowest for the second round of parliamentary elections at the same time of day since at least 1997, according to historical data given on the Interior Ministry.
UPDATE: Voting turnout in the second round of France’s parliamentary election had reached 17.75 percent by 1200 (1000 GMT), the interior ministry said on Sunday.
The figure was well below the 21.41 percent recorded at the same time of day during the second-round ballot in 2012 and 22.89 percent in 2007.
The 1000 GMT turnout is at its lowest for the second round of parliamentary elections since at least 1997, according to historical data given on the interior ministry website.
Voting stations opened in France at 0600 GMT for the second round of the parliamentary election, just a month after the 39-year-old former banker became the youngest head of state in modern French history.
Turnout, though, could touch record lows, in a sign of voter fatigue after seven months of roller-coaster campaigning and voting, but also of disillusionment and anger with politics that could eventually complicate Macron’s reform drive.
Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party is barely more than a year old yet pollsters project it will win as many as 75-80 percent of seats in the 577-seat lower house.
Many of its lawmakers will be political novices, something which will change the face of parliament at the expense of the conservative and socialist parties which have ruled France for decades.
One of the challenges for Macron as he sets out to overhaul labour rules, cut tens of thousands of public sector jobs and invest billions of public cash in areas including job training and renewable energy, will be to keep such a diverse and politically raw group of lawmakers united behind him.
“There has never been such a paradox between a high concentration of power and strong tensions and expectations in terms of changes,” Laurent Berger, head of France’s CFDT union, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.
“There is no place for euphoria in victory. There is no providential man, no miracle solution”.
Key rivals say they expect LREM to win a majority of seats and have been urging voters to make the margin as small as possible, saying that democratic debate could otherwise be stifled.
Opinion polls show that voters, while preparing to hand Macron a crushing majority, are actually hoping for a strong opposition to emerge in parliament.
“We need other parties to have some weight,” 54-year-old assembly line worker Veronique Franqueville said on the parking lot of a tumble-dryer factory in the northern town of Amiens. “If he wins it all there will be no debate.”
But among those who plan to vote for LREM candidates the mood is very different, with an overwhelming feeling that the Macron needs to be given a strong enough majority to carry out the policies on which he was elected just over a month ago.
“I will vote for the ‘En Marche’ candidate,” said Aurelie, a 25-year-old nurse in Amiens, referring to Macron’s party. “If we want the president to be able to do things we need to give him a majority.”
The election is set to send shockwaves through the older parties, with their unity, and even survival, at stake.
The conservative The Republicans are expected to be the biggest opposition group in parliament. But polls see them securing no more than 90-95 seats out of 577.
Some Republican lawmakers could create a separate group to back Macron on a case-by-case basis, while others may see a future firmly in the opposition.
The Socialist Party, which ruled France until last month, faces a humiliating defeat which could see them with no more than 25-35 seats.
The election also spells trouble for the far-right National Front (FN), seen with only between one and six seats when earlier it had hoped to secure a “massive” presence in parliament. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, is expected to be among those who will be elected.
Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon is also seen winning a seat in parliament. But polls are unclear if his France Unbowed party will reach the 15-strong threshold required to be able to form a parliamentary group.
Polling stations close at 6:00 p.m. local time (1600 GMT) in small and medium towns and at 8:00 p.m. local time (1800 GMT) in Paris and other big cities. At that time, opinion polls will give an estimate of the outcome and official results will start trickling in.