President Emmanuel Macron’s party looks set to win a clear majority in the French parliament after attracting the highest share of the vote in the first round of French legislative elections, which were marked by a record low turnout and the collapse of the Socialist party.
Official results from the 67,000 polling stations across France showed that nearly a third of voters cast their ballots for the candidates fielded by the president’s party, La République en Marche, and its ally Modem, another centrist party, on Sunday. The 39-year-old Mr Macron won the presidential contest in a landslide against the far-right leader Marine Le Pen a little over a month ago.
His victory in the legislative election is likely to translate into more than 400 seats in the National Assembly, or nearly 70 per cent, after the second round of voting on June 18. Such a large majority was thought impossible by many analysts just a few months ago.
The election of the 577 members of the lower house is a test of support for Mr Macron’s start-up movement, which, as yet, has no MPs. The French centrist leader needs 290 seats for a majority to carry out the reforms he proposed during his presidential campaign, notably measures to make the labour market more flexible.
Brice Teinturier, head of political surveys at Ipsos, said En Marche was possibly on course for a landslide because its candidates looked set to qualify for the second round in nearly all constituencies and were likely to draw votes from the centre-left and centre-right on June 18. “For all the other parties, the right, the FN, Unbowed France and the Socialist Party, it is a setback,” he said.
However, only half of French voters chose to turn out — a record low for a first round of parliamentary polls in the history of the fifth republic.
The Socialist party of François Hollande, Mr Macron’s predecessor, was facing a humiliating defeat, with an estimated 9.5 per cent of the vote on Sunday. Such a tally would mean 15-40 seats, down from the 284 it holds.
Many party veterans were eliminated in the first round, including Benoît Hamon, the Socialist presidential candidate, and Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, the secretary-general. Others were facing a trouncing in the run-off.
Manuel Valls, the former prime minister who Mr Macron spared by not fielding a candidate against him, looked on course to save his seat after coming first in his constituency.
The National Front, plagued by doubt and infighting after Ms Le Pen lost to Mr Macron in the presidential runoff, looked set for a severe underperformance, with only 13.2 per cent of the national vote — a tally likely to add only a couple of seats to the two that the far-right party has today. Ms Le Pen however is expected to enter parliament after attracting more than 45 per cent of the votes in her northern constituency near Henin Beaumont.
About one in five voters backed the centre-right party Les Républicains, shaken by the ill-fated campaign of its presidential candidate François Fillon. It is predicted to secure up to 132 seats, down from 199.
With 14 per cent of the vote, the far left, which includes Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Unbowed France and the Communist party, is set to secure between 13 and 23 seats.
The format for the elections is a two-round, first-past-the-post system. A candidate needs to secure an absolute majority of votes cast and the approval of at least 25 per cent of eligible voters to win in the first round. Otherwise, a second round follows in which candidates who recorded at least 12.5 per cent of registered voters in the first round are allowed to participate. The candidate with a relative majority is elected in the second round.