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Hold on, it wasn't meant to be this easy for Emmanuel Macron

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Hold on, it wasn't meant to be this easy for Emmanuel Macron
Photo: AFP
21:05 CEST+02:00
While winning the presidential elections was considered the easier part for Emmanuel Macron, his pop-up party was meant to flounder in the legislative elections when order was to be restored, experts said. Then why is the 39-year-old heading for a record parliamentary majority.

The initial projections from the first round of voting in Franc's parliamentary elections point to a record majority for Emmanuel Macron's Republique en Marche party.

To put that in perspective, Macron could be heading for as many as 445 MPs in the 577 seat parliament.

Macron will gain more seats than François Hollande did in 2012, more than Sarkozy in 2007 and even more than Jacques Chirac in 2002. 

To put that in even more perspective that's a result that just six weeks ago, pretty much all political analysts would have said was impossible.

There was the view that a plucky Macron got lucky in winning the presidential election thanks in the main to the fake jobs scandal that engulfed François Fillon.

Order would be restored with Fillon out of the way and the right would bounce back and claim a majority in parliament and force Macron to appoint a right wing Prime Minister. Or that's what many predicted would happen.

But why have things changed so much in the new president's favour?

Well, for a start, he won.

And in France voters normally follow the tradition of ensuring the winning president gets a majority in the parliamentary elections a month later, when many voters who backed losing candidates tend to abstain.

But that's doesn't explain the whopping majority Macron looks set to gain.

Part of the reason can explained by Macron's strong start. He had a successful first visit to Germany when he persuaded Angela Merkel to at least consider renegotiating EU treaties, something which she had always refused to contemplate.

Then he crushed Donald Trump's knuckles during the now infamous handshake, stood up to Vladimir Putin when he accused Russian state media of peddling propaganda and lies against him, and then thrilled the French and many Americans when he trolled Donald Trump in English after the US president announced he was pulling the US out of the Paris climate deal.

French president's trolling of Donald Trump delights the French AND Americans

In just a few weeks Macron has managed to restore the confidence and pride of the French people in their president after five years of the unpopular François Hollande.

“After the presidential election the French would have been asking the question ‘does this 39-year-old who has never been elected and who has little political experience really have the capacity to fill the sacred role of president?" Bruno Jeanbart from Opinion Way polling institute told The Local and other members of the Anglo American Press Association in Paris.

"But he has responded very very well by showing he could don the clothes of the president of the Republic” 

But it's not just his impressive showing on the diplomatic scene that has convinced French voters to give him a record majority.

Jeanbart points out that Macron's choice of government which broke down traditional political divides by bringing figures from the left and the right has undermined the opposition, particularly on the right, where The Republicans party still appears to be floundering after the Fillon fiasco and unable to match Macron's promise of political renewal.

Macron's choice of right wing figures Edouard Philippe and Bruno Le Maire for Prime Minister and Economy Minister, key positions for the right, are seen as being crucial in convincing traditional conservative voters to back him.

“There is a section of the right that want to advance and change in the country. They will say to themselves ‘after what Macron has demonstrated in his first month, there is hope that France can advance in the right direction, so let's give him our votes', ” Jeanbart said.

An Ifop poll says between 15 and 20 percent of those who had backed the right-wing François Fillon in the presidential election will now vote for Macron.

Macron's promise to bring fresh faces into parliament also appears to have gone down well with voters.

Around half of REM candidates have never held office, and despite some teething problems when they were unveiled, opinion polls showed the public were in favour of the renewal Macron was offering.

"If I may say, at the moment you could take a goat wearing a Macron badge and it would have a good chance of being elected," BFMTV political commentator Christophe Barbier said.

Macron's start hasn't exactly been squeaky clean however.

He has been hit by an ongoing scandal surrounding his minister for territorial cohesion Richard Ferrand, who is also one of his closest allies.

Yet experts believe it will have little impact on the parliamentary elections, given Ferrand is still fairly unknown to the French people and the fact that other questions such as the ongoing terror threat in Europe continue to dominate headlines.

However analysts and pollsters do warn Emmanuel Macron of the possible problems ahead, even if he does win a mammoth majority.

"Within this gigantic parliamentary party there could be internal difficulties," said Pascal Perrineau, a researcher at Cevipof.

"At first this (majority) will seem like a gift from heaven, but it will eventually be seen as a difficulty," he added.

And Jerôme Fourquet from the Ifop polling agency said: “There was a lot of euphoria around Sarkozy's victory in 2007. At the start he succeeded in everything he did. No one see how the train could derail.

“A few months later and mistakes had been made and he became unpopular. Things became complicated for him,” Fourquet said.

“At the moment it's working well for Macron, but the serious business will start for Macron after the legislatives, notably with the planned reform of the labour code.”

Once again experts are suggesting Macron's real challenges lie ahead, but for now at least the president keeps rising to them.

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