Macron wins a ma­jor­ity, but it’s not a landslide

With the Par­lia­ment vic­tory, the pres­i­dent has a free hand to shake up France.

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

PARIS — As pre­dicted, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s new party won a ma­jor­ity in Par­lia­ment in a sec­ond round of vot­ing on Sun­day, giv­ing him com­mand­ing con­trol of the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

The re­sults, how­ever, did not bring the crush­ing landslide al­most ev­ery poll had fore­cast.

The new leader’s party, La Republique En Marche (the Repub­lic on the Move), needed 289 seats to take con­trol of the 577-seat Na­tional Assem­bly, the lower house of Par­lia­ment. With 97% of the vote counted early Mon­day, the in­te­rior min­is­ter said Macron’s party and its ally in gov­ern­ment, the cen­trist Demo­cratic Move­ment, or Mo­Dem party, had won 342 seats.

The clear ma­jor­ity will give the pres­i­dent a free hand to push through his plans to shake up France with a more busi­ness­friendly ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans took 113 seats.

The re­turns bore out an an­tic­i­pated catas­tro­phe for the So­cial­ist Party, which ran the coun­try un­til Macron’s elec­tion in May. The So­cial­ists took just 29 seats.

The far-left Un­bowed France, led by fire­brand Jean-Luc Me­len­chon, won 17 seats, a tri­umph for a party cre­ated only 16 months ago, and the far-right Na­tional Front claimed eight seats, up from two.

Par­ties need at least 15 seats to form an of­fi­cial po­lit­i­cal group in the house and be el­i­gi­ble for speak­ing time and fund­ing.

Macron’s vic­tory was tem­pered by the fact that only 43% of vot­ers both­ered to turn out, one of the high­est rates of ab­sten­tion ever recorded.

His re­cently nom­i­nated prime min­is­ter, Edouard Philippe, a mem­ber of the Repub­li­cans, said Sun­day’s re­sult was a “clear ma­jor­ity,” but ac­knowl­edged that the low turnout was a worry. “Ab­sten­tion is never good news for democ­racy,” Philippe said, but vot­ers gave his gov­ern­ment an “ar­dent obli­ga­tion to suc­ceed.”

“The French peo­ple have cho­sen hope over anger, op­ti­mism over pes­simism and con­fi­dence over turn­ing in on them­selves,” he added.

Christophe Cas­taner, Macron’s gov­ern­ment spokesman, said vot­ers had shown there was a “will for things to change.”

“The French peo­ple have given us a clear ma­jor­ity, but they didn’t want to give us a blank check,” Cas­taner said.

It was an as­ton­ish­ing dou­ble vic­tory for the cen­trist Macron, a 39-year-old for­mer banker who is rel­a­tively new to pol­i­tics, and is the youngest pres­i­dent in French his­tory.

Just over a year ago, he was the leader of a move­ment of am­a­teur ac­tivists op­er­at­ing with vol­un­teers and pub­lic do­na­tions. In 12 months, the po­lit­i­cal out­sider came from behind to over­take a packed field of es­tab­lished can­di­dates to win the keys to the El­y­see Palace. On Sun­day, he con­sol­i­dated his lead­er­ship tri­umph by wrest­ing ab­so­lute con­trol of the lower house of Par­lia­ment from the tra­di­tional right and left par­ties.

Macron promised to re­new French pol­i­tics in an out-with-the-old, in-with­the-new pro­gram that pledged to ease strict la­bor laws, in­tro­duce flex­i­bil­ity for busi­nesses and clean up French pub­lic life af­ter a se­ries of fraud and cor­rup­tion scan­dals.

Af­ter his pres­i­den­tial win, he fol­lowed up on his stance to be “nei­ther left nor right” by ap­point­ing a gov­ern­ment from across the main­stream po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

The So­cial­ists’ gen­eral sec­re­tary, Jean-Christophe Cam­badelis, im­me­di­ately an­nounced he was step­ping down as party head. He said Macron’s tri­umph was “in­con­testable.”

“The vot­ers wanted to give the new pres­i­dent a chance. They left no chances for his op­po­nents,” Cam­badelis said in a tele­vised news con­fer­ence. He warned that Macron now had “ab­so­lute power.”

Marine Le Pen, head of the far-right Na­tional Front, was elected to Par­lia­ment for the first time af­ter four at­tempts. She will rep­re­sent the north­ern rust-belt town of Henin-Beau­mont.

Last-minute polls be­fore elec­tion­eer­ing ended at mid­night on Fri­day sug­gested Macron’s party and Mo­Dem could have up to 470 seats in the Na­tional Assem­bly. But they fell far short of that.

La Republique En Marche is only a few weeks old. The party had cho­sen 526 can­di­dates to run; half were women, and half were po­lit­i­cal novices. Only 19 of those fielded failed to ad­vance past the first-round vote.

Low-voter turnout was blamed on the party pri­maries and pres­i­den­tial and par­lia­men­tary elec­tions over the last seven months lead­ing to voter fa­tigue.

Pho­to­graphs by Ber­trand Guay AFP/Getty Images

FRENCH Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron needed 289 seats to take con­trol of the 577-seat Na­tional Assem­bly. With 97% of the vote counted, his party and its ally in gov­ern­ment, the Demo­cratic Move­ment, won 342 seats.

MACRON, a for­mer banker, has promised a more busi­ness-friendly en­vi­ron­ment in France.

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