French voters hand Macron large majority in Parliament – USA TODAY
Watch French President Emmanuel Macron votes in the final round of French Parliamentary elections on Sunday, June 18.
PARIS — French voters gave newly elected President Emmanuel Macron a large majority in Parliament with Sunday’s second-round election in what some are calling a political revolution.
With 82% of the votes counted, Macron’s Republic on the Move! party won 42% of the vote, followed by the conservative Republicans with 22% and the far-right, anti-immigrant National Front at 10%. The Socialists, who ruled the nation before Macron, won only 6%.
“Through their vote, a wide majority of the French have chosen hope over anger,” said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, a center-right politician who joined Macron’s movement.
Republicans leader Francois Baroin declared his party the main opposition after losing to Macron’s movement. He wished Macron “good luck” because he said he wants France to succeed.
Macron’s party was created less than two years ago, yet it dominated in the first round of voting on June 11 and was projected to win 355 to 365 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, the powerful lower house.
Macron, 39, the youngest French head of state since Napoleon Bonaparte, won office in May, promising to lead a revolution to renew confidence in government and revive the country’s stagnant economy with an agenda that mixes liberal and conservative policies.
“It is a movement that disrupts,” said Eddy Fougier, a political scientist with the Paris-based French Institute of International and Strategic Affairs.
“It is not a protest movement because Emmanuel Macron isn’t protesting anything — he is the incarnation of the elite French,” Fougier said. “But it’s like someone who arrived in a market with their start-up where there were already dominant players, and changed the rules.”
Macron has proposed a raft of pro-business measures, including making it easier to hire and fire workers and creating a new tech visa to entice developers and engineers to relocate to France. France’s unemployment stands at 10%, but joblessness among young people is 25%.
He has also pushed back against those in France and Europe who want to break up or weaken the European Union, and criticized far-right politicians who have said countries should close their borders to immigrants fleeing the Syrian civil war and other violence.
Macron voters said they are less interested in his sometimes controversial platform — such as changing France’s strict labor law that is considered a sacred cow — than the fact he is shaking things up.
“It’s time for something new,” said Celine Haroun, 35, a stay-at-home-mom in Paris who voted for Macron’s party. “I think it’s enough now” from parties that held power in the past.
Those parties have mainly been shut out of governing, as Republic on the Move! wins a majority in Parliament. Polls predicted the next-largest share would go to the center-right Republicans, who could win up to 125 seats. The Socialists were forecast to win a meager 20 to 30 seats. The polarizing far-right, anti-immigrant National Front, headed by Marine Le Pen, was on track to win only a handful of seats.
Republic on the Move!’s style sharply diverges from France’s traditional mainstream parties, whose members usually are culled from the country’s political landscape and its most elite universities, known as the “Grandes Écoles.”
Instead, most candidates in Macron’s party have never held office or studied politics — a condition Macron set before the parliamentary elections. The candidates applied online to run. Half are women. Ethnically African and Middle Eastern candidates are heavily represented. Currently only around 12 deputies in the assembly have backgrounds from those regions.
“Macron can hardly be described as “anti-establishment,” because he actually is a part of the French establishment,” as a banker and a former minister under Socialist President François Hollande, said Adriano Bosoni, a senior Europe analyst based in Barcelona with Stratfor, a strategic intelligence firm. “However, his youth and his relative lack of political experience allowed Macron to present himself as a breath of fresh air in French politics.”
“Macron managed to attract voters who wanted to protest against the traditional political parties, which in a sense makes him a part of the “anti-establishment” wave that we see in Europe and the United States,” he added. “But at the same time, he managed to do this while defending centrist and moderate positions on economic and social issues.”
One aspect of the election could mar Macron’s sweep. The turnout was trending low, with just over 35% of eligible voters casting ballots by late Sunday afternoon, less than the 41% at the same hour in the first round of parliamentary voting a week ago, according to the Interior Minister.
A low turnout arguably could reflect a contempt of government that Macron is seeking to reverse. Because his party could receive less than a majority of total registered voters, that could weaken Macron as he pursues his agenda, analysts said.
Meanwhile, Haroun said she was taking a wait-and-see attitude, hoping for the best, maybe even a revolution that would bring real change.
“Even if they abuse the power, which is normal for politicians, we can get them out in a few years,” she said. “And besides, how bad can it be — after all, it’s not Le Pen. For that, we must be thankful.”