Leg­isla­tive race tests Macron’s agenda

Par­lia­men­tary turnout was 41%

The Washington Times Daily - - WORLD - BY SYLVIE CORBET

PARIS | French vot­ers stayed away from the polls in large num­bers Sun­day in the first round of a leg­isla­tive elec­tion ex­pected to de­liver a com­fort­able ma­jor­ity for newly elected Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron to make good on his prom­ises of far-reach­ing change for France.

The turnout rate was 41 per­cent by late af­ter­noon, ac­cord­ing to the In­te­rior Min­istry. That was down from 48 per­cent in the first round of the last par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in 2012.

The voter apa­thy sug­gested a sharp drop in voter in­ter­est in an elec­tion that even Mr. Macron’s op­po­nents felt was largely lost in ad­vance, with the pres­i­dent’s Repub­lic on the Move! party widely ex­pected to se­cure a ma­jor­ity.

“I think peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how im­por­tant these elec­tions are,” said Pamela Guil­lou, who voted in the north­ern town of Henin-Beau­mont, where far-right leader Marine Le Pen was hop­ing to win a leg­isla­tive seat for the first time.

An­other Henin-Beau­mont res­i­dent, David Queneutte, blamed voter fa­tigue with politi­cians. “With all the prom­ises that they’ve made and that they never hold, there’s less and less peo­ple who go out and vote,” he said.

A to­tal of 7,882 can­di­dates were run­ning for 577 seats in the Na­tional Assem­bly. Un­der France’s elec­tion rules, low turnout could see fewer can­di­dates ad­vance to the de­ci­sive sec­ond round next Sun­day.

Polls sug­gest vot­ers will strongly fa­vor Mr. Macron’s party and dra­mat­i­cally shake up French pol­i­tics, pun­ish­ing the tra­di­tional left and right par­ties and leav­ing no sin­gle strong op­po­si­tion force.

An ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity for Mr. Macron’s party would en­able him to im­ple­ment cam­paign prom­ises to sim­plify la­bor rules and make it eas­ier to lay off work­ers in hopes of boost­ing hir­ing. The govern­ment out­lined the main themes of a ma­jor la­bor re­form that has al­ready an­gered French unions and is likely to prompt ten­sions over the sum­mer.

Mr. Macron also plans to quickly pass a law to strengthen se­cu­rity mea­sures — ef­fec­tively mak­ing the state of emer­gency per­ma­nent, af­ter mul­ti­ple Is­lamic ex­trem­ist at­tacks in France — and an­other one that he says will put more ethics into French pol­i­tics. The govern­ment needs a new Na­tional Assem­bly in place to vote on the bills.

Mr. Macron called on French vot­ers to give him a “ma­jor­ity to make changes” on the night of his vic­tory May 7. “That’s what the coun­try wants and that’s what it de­serves,” he said.

A min­i­mum of 289 seats is re­quired to se­cure an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.