French parliamentary elections: Emmanuel Macron's party En Marche! wins majority in National Assembly

Marine Le Pen wins seat but far-right Front National falls short of target as turnout falls

Claire Sergent
Sunday 18 June 2017 20:41
With 97 per cent of votes counted, the interior ministry said the President’s party had won 43 per cent of the vote
With 97 per cent of votes counted, the interior ministry said the President’s party had won 43 per cent of the vote

Emmanuel Macron won his bet. His party, En Marche!, which did not exist a year ago, has obtained an absolute majority in the French parliament.

With almost all the votes counted, the interior ministry said the President’s party had won 43 per cent of the vote, gaining 301 out of 577 seats in the National Assembly. Adding in the tally of En Marche!'s ally MoDem, and Mr Macron can command an impressive 350 seats.

At the En Marche! party's headquarters in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, the mood is not the same joyful celebration that greeted Mr Macron's own presidential election victory six weeks ago.

Turnout hit a record low of around 42 per cent, betraying a climate of fatigue and political disillusionment among the French people. It meant there were no screams of joy here on Sunday night, only subdued applause welcomed the results as they were broadcast on TV screens.

“It's not a political landslide, but it's balanced,” said Alexandra Laffitte, an En Marche! substitute candidate in the 9th district of Paris.

The activists are few, certainly compared to the journalists here to snatch their statements and document the denouement of this extraordinary political story.

Nina Halimi, a 27-year-old law student, hailed victory in the second-round vote: “This is a very good result, when not long ago it was predicted that Mr Macron would be unable to win a majority in the Assembly. It is a fair Assembly that respects democracy”.

Jonathan Kemma, a 28-year-old digital communication worker, said: “We have the majority to work and the opposition also exists, that's good news”, he says, convinced that if the majority had been too overwhelming, it would have been held against them.

Catherine Barbaroux, who replaced Mr Macron as the leader of the party, said they must move forward with an attitude characterised by three words: “lucidity, responsibility and humility”.

“The abstention rate reflects the work ahead of us,” she said. Party leaders are under no illusions - Sylvain Maillard, a 45-year-old businessman elected by an absolute majority from the first round in Paris, admitted that they won because they “are the President’s candidates”, adding: “The French have backed the project of Emmanuel Macron. We must not deceive them, they voted for us because they expect change.”

“Many Frenchmen have turned away from political life,” he said, a sentiment reflected by the turnout. To remedy it, “it is necessary to reform”.

Alexandra Laffitte said obtaining a majority of deputies inferred a huge responsibility on En Marche! “Our responsibility is enormous because many French people are disappointed,” she said. “We must now talk to all those who are fed up with it and who no longer want to listen to us.”

Activists all agreed that they must get to work as quickly as possible. Ms Laffitte declared: “We have to be effective, it is an important parliamentary group, completely new, which we will have to organise very quickly”.

France’s Prime Minister said voters have given a clear majority to Mr Macron and his government.

Macron set for landslide victory in French parliamentary elections

Edouard Philippe, a centre-right politician who has joined En Marche!, said “through their vote, a wide majority of the French have chosen hope over anger”.

The elections saw far-right leader Marine Le Pen win her first parliamentary seat. The Front National (FN) leader claimed she won around 58 per cent of the vote in Henin-Beaumont in northern France, and her party looked on course to take eight seats in the French parliament in total.

Ms Le Pen said her party's representatives will “fight with all necessary means the harmful projects of the government”, despite falling well short of its target of a 15-strong parliamentary group.

She said they will especially fight against what she called Mr Macron's pro-European, pro-migrant policies.

The Conservative Republicains came a distant second with 22 per cent of the vote and 113 seats, while the head of the Socialistes quit after his party suffered a horrendous defeat. The party won just 6 per cent of the vote and 29 seats.

Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said that “Emmanuel Macron's triumph is uncontestable, the defeat of the left is unavoidable, and the defeat of the Socialist party is irrevocable”.

He added that the party needs to change its ideas and its organisation and that a “collective leadership” is going to replace him.

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