President Emmanuel Macron’s fledgling party is set to trounce France’s traditional main parties in a parliamentary election, according to projections after the first round on Sunday, and secure a huge majority to push through his pro-business reforms. The results, if confirmed, deliver a further crushing blow to the Socialist and conservative parties that had alternated in power for decades until Macron’s election in May blew apart the left-right divide that had shaped French politics. Pollsters said well over 30 percent of voters had picked Macron’s party in the first round, a result that they said could deliver him as many as three-quarters of the seats in the lower house after next week’s second round.That would give France’s youngest leader since Napoleon a powerful mandate with which to make good on campaign pledges to revive France’s fortunes by cleaning up politics and easing regulations that investors say hobble the euro zone’s second biggest economy. “The French people have shown that they want us to move quickly,” said government spokesman Christophe Castaner.Both the Socialists and the conservative Republicans party warned voters against concentrating too much power in the hands of one party in the second round.Macron professes to be neither right nor left. His one-year-old Republic on the Move (LREM) party fielded both seasoned veterans and political novices including a former bullfighter, a fighter pilot and a former armed police commander. “It’s a renewal of the political class,” said Jose Jeffrey, a Health Ministry administrator who voted LREM. “I’ve known people who have been members of parliament for 40 years.”
Projections by three pollsters of LREM’s tally after the second round ranged from 390 to 445 of the assembly’s 577 seats – potentially the biggest majority since president Charles De Gaulle’s conservatives won more than 80 percent of seats in 1968.Macron, a former investment banker, wants a “big bang” of economic and social reforms, including an easing of stringent labour laws and reform of an unwieldy pension system.The pro-European leader’s programme enjoys strong support among liberal, well-educated voters in France’s big cities, but he is less popular in poorer, rural areas.
Sunday’s projections pointed to another torrid night for the two main traditional parties, which have suffered high-profile defections to Macron’s government and party.Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, head of the Socialist party that was in power until a month ago, acknowledged that the first round marked an “unprecedented” setback for the party, set to win a paltry 30-40 seats, and the broader left.”It is neither healthy nor desirable for a president who gathered only 24 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidentials and who was elected in the second round only by the rejection of the extreme right should benefit from a monopoly of national representation,” Cambadelis said.
Francois Baroin, who led the campaign of the conservative Republicans, projected to win 80-100 seats, echoed the sentiment.Very few lawmakers are expected to be elected directly in the first round. To win, a candidate needs more than half of the votes cast, and they must account for at least a quarter of the registered voters – doubly challenging as the national turnout was below 50 percent.