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ELECTION

Macron’s party on course for landslide victory in French parliamentary elections

Initial results for the first round of France's parliamentary elections on Sunday pointed to a mammoth majority for President Emmanuel Macron's gleaming new Republique en Marche party on a day when the turn-out was only 50 percent.

Macron's party on course for landslide victory in French parliamentary elections
Photo: AFP

Macron's party scored 32.2 to 32.9 percent in the first-round parliamentary vote, initial projections said, compared to 20.9 percent for the right wing Republicans party, 13 percent for Marine Le Pen's National Front, 11 percent for the far left France Insoumise (France Unbowed), led by Jean-Luc Melenchon and only 9 percent for France's beleaguered Socialist party. 

However the one downside for Macron was that voter turn-out was only 50 percent, the lowest since 1958.

We won't know how many seats Republique en Marche 5REM) will obtain until next Sunday's second round vote, but early projections by pollsters Elabe suggest Macron's party could end up with as many as 445 seats in the 577 seat parliament. That would easily break all previous records.

Macron's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said: “Despite the abstention rate, the French people's message is without ambiguity.” 

In a statement sent out after the results, REM party president Catherine Barbaroux thanked voters saying “their choice has a clear meaning: they want the action taken by Emmanuel Macron, since his election to the Presidency of the Republic, to be continued.”

REM party spokesman Christophe Castaner played it cool saying “nothing has been won yet.”

REM's Jean-Paul Delevoye added: “This results brings us enormous responsibility and humility.”

The initial projection for the second round showed Macron's party will gain between 415 and 445 seats, which if correct would give the new president huge power over the National Assembly.

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In terms of the other parties the same projections suggest the right wing Republicans party will obtain between 80 and 100 seats, the National Front will only pick up between one and four seats, France Insoumise, between 10 and 20 seats and the Socialist party and its left wing allies between 30 and 40 seats.

All other parties will be disappointed with those kind of projections for differing reasons, but given Le Pen came second in the presidential election where she scored over 10 million votes, the idea that her party will only pick up four MPs will be bitterly disappointing to National Front party chiefs.

The National Front had initially hoped for 15, which means they could form a parliamentary group, which would enable them to access more financing and have more speaking time.

National Front deputy Florian Philippot called on voters to unite against Macron's REM party, echoing similar appeals from other political parties who feared the prospect of a parliament overwhelmingly dominated by Republique en Marche.

“We can't allow REM to have 400 deputies. We need a massive mobilisation for the second round,” he said admitting that “we've maybe been disappointed by the score and we have paid the price, I think, for a low turnout.”

Marine Le Pen, who is standing as an MP in northern France was ahead after the first round after scoring 45 percent of the vote.

Socialist party big wig Jean-Christophe Cambadelis recognised the “unprecedented retreat” of the Socialist party but argued it would be a bad result for democracy in France if Macron, who scored 24 percent in the first round of the presidential elections, benefited from a “monopoly on democratic representation”.

However many may once again question the legitimacy of Macron's success given that only one in two voters took part in the first round of the elections, according to estimations.

Participation rates for the parliamentary generally show a big drop in participation compared to the presidential elections however in 2012 the turn-out rate was up at 57 percent. 

The sovereigntist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a former presidential candidate said the low turn-out “seriously undermines the legitimacy of the future parliament.”

Macron has enjoyed a smooth start in the five weeks since he beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to become France's youngest-ever president, naming a cabinet that crosses left-right lines and making a big impression at international summits.

His untested Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) party, which he only founded in April 2016, needs a clear majority in the National Assembly for him to push through the reforms he has promised.

The party has already had a boost after its candidates came first in 10 of the 11 French overseas constituencies that voted before the mainland.

French voters have traditionally rallied behind their new leader in the legislative elections that follow the presidential ballot.

Macron's predecessors Francois Hollande in 2012, Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 and Jacques Chirac in 2002 all won outright majorities. Unlike Macron, however, they all came from long-established parties.

REM reflects the president's desire for a new brand of politics.

Initially dismissed by Macron's opponents as a movement of young activists without any real roots, it will field 530 candidates on Sunday.

In a bid to renew the political scene, many have never stood for office before, such as Marie Sara, a rare female bullfighter, who is taking on a senior member of Le Pen's National Front in southern France, Gilbert Collard.

ELECTION

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.”

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