Macron’s party poised to win parliament
Candidates plan to help president ignite economy
PARIS | He has already defied France’s traditional political parties to claim the presidency, and now Emmanuel Macron’s upstart, center-right political party En Marche is expected run up a massive victory in parliamentary elections that begin on Sunday, giving the 39-year-old political newcomer a de Gaulle-sized mandate to pursue reforms to shake the country’s sclerotic economy.
Polls say Mr. Macron’s candidates will easily surpass the 289 seats needed for a majority and could be on track to lead one of the biggest parliamentary majorities of the post-World War II era.
Elected in May by voters who rejected France’s mainstream parties, Macron has pledged to curb French laws that favor labor unions, make permanent emergency measures for public safety adopted after a spate of terrorist attacks that began in 2015 and expand the social safety net to more unemployed workers and others. An economy minister in the Socialist administration of President Francois Hollande, Mr. Macron also has proposed pro-business measures and cutting the state budget by $67 billion.
“France is stuck. It doesn’t move forward anymore,” said Lucile Van Der Slikke, 55, a business consultant who said she would vote for En Marche (Forward). “I want to give a majority to the president. I want him to be able to implement his agenda.”
Formed a year ago in a bid to break the divide between the famously antagonistic left and right parties, En Marche has never before fielded candidates for parliament.
On the campaign trail in the run-up to the election last month, Mr. Macron repeatedly painted the Socialist Party and the conservative Republicans as out of touch and bereft of ideas to address persistent unemployment and economic stagnation.
Mr. Macron is no radical, however. In the final round of presidential voting, he bested Marine Le Pen, the right-wing leader of the National Front who wanted to curtail immigration severely and pull France out of the European Union.
Fulfilling his campaign pledge to consider ideas across the political spectrum, the president has appointed Cabinet members from both mainstream parties. Now it seems French voters are again embracing his moderate vision.
An IFOP survey released Wednesday forecast that En Marche candidates would garner as many as 380 seats out of 577 in the National Assembly, giving Mr. Macron an absolute majority to push through his agenda.
The conservative Republicans and their allies would win 23 percent, the poll said. Leftist parties would win about 21 percent, with the once-powerful Socialists garnering only 8 percent of the vote. The National Front was on track to win 17 percent.
Political analyst Jerome Fourquet, who heads the IFOP opinion department, said Mr. Macron was building on his momentum.
“Those who voted for the president are mobilized to give him a majority, while those from the sides that were defeated are usually less so,” said Mr. Fourquet.
The first round of the legislative elections is slated for Sunday. If candidates fail to win more than 50 percent of their districts, runoffs between the top vote-getters on June 18 will determine the winners.
If the polls are correct, then the French parliament is slated for an unprecedented change. Of the 525 En March candidates running, 281 are not career politicians and are largely unknown to voters. Many even applied online to run on the party’s slate. Many of the others previously belonged to opposing parties.
“There will be a complete renewal of the parliament with the arrival of deputies who have never worked in politics before,” said Cecile Cornudet, a political columnist at the newspaper Les Echos, adding that their lack of experience could be a double-edged sword.
“This is a big unknown,” he said. “We really can’t tell how this will work out. Will they master the parliamentary technicalities, which is not an easy task? They might find it’s a thankless job.”
The idealism surrounding Mr. Macron will soon face the harsh test of reality, said Luc Rouban of the Paris Institute of Political Studies. Mr. Macron’s proposed pro-market reforms already concern far-left and far-right voters comprising around 40 percent of the electorate. When En Marche runs the parliament, those people won’t hesitate from protesting in the streets to protect their interests, said Mr. Rouban.
“The reforms will have to be accepted by all, not just the National Assembly,” he said. “It’s obvious that it will create conflicts because not everybody will win.”
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, have occupied the Elysee Palace in Paris. Mr. Macron now looks to fill parliament with enough members of his upstart En Marche party to have a strong mandate to pursue economic reforms.