The centrist president’s setback came amid a surge in support for the hard left France Unbowed (LFI) and far right National Rally (RN) — the political homes of the new MPs from a working-class background who stand out in a sea of career politicians.
The freshly-elected MPs are out to make their mark on the new parliament where opposition parties will have more room to make an impact than in the previous one where Macron enjoyed a large majority.
Former cleaner Rachel Keke beat Macron’s former sports minister Roxana Maracineanu after running on a left-wing alliance ticket led by LFI’s leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon.
“I am the voice of the voiceless,” Keke said on Sunday after the results came in.
🗣️ "Je suis la voix des sans-voix. Je suis femme de chambre, femme de ménage, agent de sécurité, aide-soignante, aide à domicile : je suis tous ces métiers invisibles. Et à l'Assemblée nationale, ces métiers seront visibles." @KekeRachel a été élue députée ce dimanche 19 juin. pic.twitter.com/DPAj3dwwOd
— L'Obs (@lobs) June 20, 2022
“I am a maid, I am a cleaner, security guard, care assistant, home help, I am all these invisible jobs,” she added, promising these jobs would be visible with her in the lower house parliament.
Keke made a name for herself after winning a gruelling battle for better working conditions in the Paris hotel where she cleaned.
LFI MPs supported Keke and her colleagues throughout the fight against global hotel giant Accor and have made the defence of France’s “invisible workers” a priority.
‘Average person on the street’
National Rally’s new MP Katiana Levavasseur is also a former cleaner.
She says she wants to defend “the employment of France’s unskilled workers who like me get up early in the morning to earn €11.75 an hour”.
Since taking over from her father Jean Marie as leader of the then-National Front, Marine Le Pen has sought to widen her base of support by focusing on social and economic issues.
As a consequence the party has attracted profiles from lower economic backgrounds, such as delivery driver Jorys Bovet, 29, who says he wants to fight against poverty and deindustrialisation.
“I’ve worked since I was 16,” he told the daily local La Montagne paper.
“I know the lives of the average person on the street, and I can see that purchasing power has been decreasing in the past few years,” Bovet added.
Critics still accuse the anti-immigration National Rally of being extremist, a charge Le Pen vehemently rejects.
New RN MP Jose Beaurain, 50, also from a working-class background, is the first blind MP to enter parliament.
Beaurain used to work in a music shop as a piano tuner and is also a former bodybuilding vice-champion for France.
Beyond a wave of working class profiles, the new parliament will also usher in the youngest-ever MPs, both 21 and from LFI — Tematai Le Gayic, elected to represent French Polynesia and law student Louis Boyard, who ran in the outskirts of Paris.
25-year-old Charles Rodwell, who says he used to write Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire’s speeches, will also be making his entrance to the Bourbon-Palace for Macron’s Ensemble (Together) coalition.
But the string of young MPs will not lower the average age of the new parliament, which stands at 48.5, only slightly lower than in 2017 when it was 48.8.
In another sign not everything has changed, some 37.26 percent of the new MPs are women, slightly less than in 2017 when 224 women were elected against the 215 this time round.
And despite the high-profile cases such as Rachel Keke, MPs from a high socio-economic background remain the rule in the new parliament.
Sociologist Etienne Ollion, professor at the Paris-based Ecole Polytechnique, says that introducing fresh profiles will not necessarily impact policy.
“We don’t produce political change by changing only the faces but keeping the relatively strict rules,” he said.
“The institution imposes itself on the individuals, they’re in a very strict setting,” Ollion added.