Macron’s party is pre­dicted to take over in Par­lia­ment

In France’s sec­on­dround vote, neo­phyte can­di­dates have high hopes for ‘new vi­sion.’

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Kim Will­sher Will­sher is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent.

PARIS — At the Thurs­day morn­ing fruit and veg­etable mar­ket at Saint Marceau, a sub­urb of the his­toric French city of Or­leans, Dr. Stephanie Rist stood un­der a clutch of col­or­ful bal­loons talk­ing to lo­cals about their prob­lems.

Just a cou­ple of weeks ago, few would have known who she was. But now, Rist, a rheuma­tol­o­gist at the city’s pub­lic hospi­tal, is en route to be­com­ing their most pow­er­ful ally.

This 43-year-old medic is one of Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s am­a­teur army of would-be law­mak­ers seek­ing a place in the coun­try’s lower house of Par­lia­ment, the Na­tional Assem­bly.

Rist was up­beat; jus­ti­fi­ably so given the polls pre­dict­ing a land­slide for Macron’s fledg­ling cen­trist party La Republique En Marche, or LREM, in the sec­on­dround vote on Sun­day. Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts pre­dict it is on track to win an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity of well over 400 in the 577-seat house. Poll­sters Opin­ionWay say the fig­ure for LREM and its cen­trist part­ner party Demo­cratic Move­ment could be as high as 470 seats.

The one damper is the es­ti­mated 53% of vot­ers not ex­pected to bother to turn out, a his­tor­i­cally high level.

Half the can­di­dates LREM fielded are women and half are drawn from civil so­ci­ety hav­ing never held any elected pub­lic of­fice. Their av­er­age age is 46.

Rist is typ­i­cal of the young, pro­fes­sional, mid­dle­class novices surf­ing the wave of op­ti­mism that has fol­lowed Macron’s elec­tion.

Un­til last year, when Macron set up his En Marche! (On­ward!) move­ment, she had never felt strongly enough to join a po­lit­i­cal party or sup­port lo­cal or na­tional can­di­dates.

The daugh­ter of a chef and a sec­re­tary, Rist com­pleted her in­tern­ship at Or­leans hospi­tal and fin­ished her stud­ies at the Necker chil­dren’s hospi­tal in Paris. To pay her way she took var­i­ous tem­po­rary hospi­tal jobs.

“I worked in all po­si­tions in the hospi­tal, from sec­re­tary, to health as­sis­tant to nurse…. It seemed im­por­tant not only to earn money while I was study­ing but to find out how the hospi­tal worked at ev­ery level.”

In 2016, when Macron set up his En Marche! move­ment, he launched a na­tion­wide con­sul­ta­tive process in­volv­ing ex­perts and or­di­nary sup­port­ers across the coun­try to draw up the ba­sis of a new po­lit­i­cal pro­gram.

Rist was sucked into Macron’s peo­ple’s move­ment, run on a shoestring, funded by pub­lic do­na­tions, staffed by vol­un­teers and with lit­tle real ex­pec­ta­tion of be­com­ing more than a wellmean­ing lob­by­ing group.

When Macron won the pres­i­den­tial vote in May and be­gan look­ing for peo­ple to sup­port him in Par­lia­ment, Rist ap­plied to be­come a can­di­date.

“I may have no po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence but I have real ex­pe­ri­ence of what’s go­ing on in so­ci­ety. The vote shows peo­ple want those who are not the same old ex­pe­ri­enced politi­cians. We have new vi­sion, we want to make pol­i­tics dif­fer­ent,” she said.

Not all are happy with the prospect of a Macron elec­toral land­slide, how­ever, as wit­nessed by low turnout in the first-round vote; more than half the elec­torate ap­pears not to have bought into the new pres­i­dent’s “re­newal” pro­gram.

Many vot­ers feel or­phaned by the de­struc­tion of the tra­di­tional right and left par­ties. While the cen­ter­right Repub­li­cans are ex­pected to form the big­gest group in Par­lia­ment after LREM, the So­cial­ist Party is fac­ing a wipe­out.

Lau­rent Jof­frin, the di­rec­tor of the left-lean­ing Lib­er­a­tion news­pa­per, wrote that France’s left were like “the last of the Mo­hi­cans.”

Eti­enne Lau­rent Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

FRENCH Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, sec­ond from right, poses for a selfie near his house in Le Tou­quet.

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