Here’s what you need to know about the French parliamentary elections

Here are key facts you need to know about the upcoming elections in France, including why on earth are there nearly 8,000 candidates?

Here's what you need to know about the French parliamentary elections
Photo: AFP

France votes in two-round elections on June 11th and 18th seen as a major test for new President Emmanuel Macron, keen to win a strong parliamentary majority to push through reforms.

His victory in May presidential ballots was a political earthquake for France, and the electoral landscape has not yet settled, with all to play for in the legislative polls.

Here are key facts you need to know about the upcoming elections:

How it works

There are 577 lawmakers up for election, including 11 who represent French who live overseas. Each constituency represents about 125,000 inhabitants.

If no candidate wins over 50 percent in the first round, the two top-placed go into the second round — as well as any candidate who won the votes of over 12.5 percent of voters on the electoral register (which is believed to represent around 20 to 21 percent of the vote).

A total of 7,882 candidates are standing nationwide in a process expected to produce a deep renewal of parliament — not least because over 200 of the outgoing lawmakers are not standing for re-election.

The average candidate's age is 48.5 years old and more than 42 percent are women. In the outgoing parliament women represented only 26.9 percent of deputies, or 155 out of 577, which was itself a record.

How many candidates are there?

In all there are 7882 candidates. That’s an average of 13.7 candidates per constituency! Why so many?
Indeed there are a number of seats where there are more than 20 people fighting for the same seat. 
This could well be down to money. All parties, large and small are in with a chance of gaining valuable state cash through these elections. 
There are two types of state aid available; one, of €1.42 per vote as long as the party gets at least 1% in at least 50 constituencies. The second type of aid is the €37.280 given to parties for each elected member of parliament that they have. This aid is given out annually at a cost of around €63 million to the French taxpayer. This continues until the next such election in five years time. 
Hold on, it wasn't meant to be this easy for Emmanuel Macron

High stakes

The media-savvy Macron is hoping to use the momentum from his presidential victory over seriously weakened traditional right and leftwing parties to build a large majority in parliament.

The far-right National Front of his defeated rival Marine Le Pen and the radical left will both also be seeking to win as many seats as possible.

With half of his Republique En Marche (Republic On the Move, REM) movement candidates coming from civil society, he hopes notably to tackle reform of the traditionally thorny issue of labour law.

If he fails to win an absolute majority — 289 out of 577 seats in parliament — it would complicate his job as president, as he would have to build a coalition with right and left.


The Republicans

The party of ex-PM and scandal-wracked former presidential candidate Francois Fillon is hoping to take its revenge, even to impose a rightwing cohabitation on the new centrist president. But with 50 lawmakers not standing again, it could lose more support to REM.

Jean-Luc Melenchon

The Communist-backed socialist scored 19.6 percent in the first round of the presidential ballot. His La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) movement is putting up candidates in 500 constituencies, and hopes to win at least 15 seats in the National Assembly to form a parliamentary group.

National Front

Weakened after the poorer-than-expected score by its leader Marine Le Pen in the presidential run-off against Emmanuel Macron (33.9 percent), the National Front nonetheless wants to present itself as the main opposition, with 10.7 million voters.

The far-right party hopes to win at least in the 45 constituencies where Le Pen won more than 50 percent in the head-to-head on May 7, but it could be an uphill battle, especially after the withdrawal from political life of her
niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, which dealt the party a blow in its southern heartland.

Socialist Party

The left-wing party needs to avoid all-out collapse. After a historically low score in the first round of the presidential election (6.3 percent for Benoit Hamon), the stakes could hardly be higher. Part of its electorate has left for Macron, others for La France Insoumise.

Some are already bracing for another bleak election night for a party which has long been one of the two mainstream forces in French politics. Older heads recall the debacle of 1993 which produced 57 socialist and allied deputies, in what would turn them into a residual group plunged back into crisis.


Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”