Macron’s party is predicted to take over in Parliament
In France’s secondround vote, neophyte candidates have high hopes for ‘new vision.’
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.”
FRENCH President Emmanuel Macron, second from right, poses for a selfie near his house in Le Touquet.