Macron wins majority in French parliament but record abstention mars election

President Emmanuel Macron's Republique en Marche (REM) party were set to gain a massive majority in the French parliament, according to initial estimations on Sunday evening. However record abstention rate in the second round of the elections meant Macron's victory was slightly tarnished.

Macron wins majority in French parliament but record abstention mars election
Photo: AFP

The initial results for the second round of France's parliamentary elections suggest Macron's REM party and its centrist allies Modem will gain something between 395 and 420 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly.

The winning margin is lower than forecast during the week when some estimates suggested Macron's Republic on the Move (REM) and its allies would secure as many as 470 seats.

Nevertheless that will be little consolation to his opponents as the result, if confirmed, would give 39-year-old Macron one of France's biggest post-war majorities, strengthening his hand in implementing his business-friendly, pro-EU programme.

Reacting to the results Macron's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said: “By a large majority the French people have chosen hope over anger, optimism over pessimism, confidence over decline.”

Philippe acknowledged however that “abstention is never good news for democracy”.

He said the government interpreted the low turn out as an “obligation to succeed”.

 (Image from BFM TV)

However, a long way behind in second place was the conservative Republicans party, who are set to win anything between 97 and 117 seats, according to initial results.

The Republicans hung on to between 97 and 130 seats, down from over 200 in the last parliament, and remain the main opposition party.

The party had enough seats to “defend its convictions”, said the party's leader for the elections, Francois Baroin, calling on Macron to heed the record-low turnout, which he said sent “a message”.

“The task he faces is immense,” he added.

The Socialist party and its leftist allies were forecast to win between 27 and 35 seats, a result that will be considered a disaster for the party that swept to power in 2012.

Party president Jean-Christophe Cambadelis immediately resigned after recognizing the party had suffered a crushing defeat.

“The rout of the Socialist Party is undeniable,” he said.

Jean-Luc Mélénchon's France Insoumise  (France unbowed) were set to win between 12 and 17 seats. Mélénchon himself was expected to have been elected to the parliament after winning the battle for the seat in Marseille.

The far right National Front led by Marine Le Pen between four and six seats.

Le Pen herself was one of those elected after results said she won the seat she was fighting for in northern France. Her party and National Front party deputy Louis Aliot also announced victory in the constituency he was standing in south western France.

Marine Le Pen wins seat in French parliament for first time

These initial predictions will change throughout the night as the results comes in.

However many will say Macron's crushing victory is somewhat undermined by the record low turn out. The abstention rate was expected to hit 58 percent, giving his critics grounds to claim he has no groundswell of support.

The Assembly is set to be transformed with a new generation of lawmakers — younger, more ethnically diverse and with far more women than the outgoing parliament.

The scale of the change is forecast to be so large that some observers have compared the overhaul to 1958, the start of the present presidential system, or even the post-war rebirth of French democracy in 1945.

UPDATES to follow



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.”