The sense that a fundamental change was coming had been growing week after week, after Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French Presidential election last month. Like tectonic plates shifting and crumbling around a new eruption pushing them apart, the left and the right, just as they had been edged out by Macron’s En Marche movement (On the Move), began to give way to the newly baptised La République en Marche (the Republic on the Move, or LREM for short).
The conservative Republicans (“LR”) had busily prepared for a cohabitation with President Macron, putting forward the baby-faced but bass-voiced François Baroin as their Prime Minister-to-be. Their hastily concocted party platform, which differed significantly from that of their now disavowed Presidential candidate, François Fillon, flopped and their campaign stuttered. Their confidence at the beginning of the campaign now looks like hubris.
On the left, the Socialists (“PS”) hoped and prayed that, by painting the Macron government as conservative, the left would flock to the polls to “correct” the Presidential vote, while quietly shelving Benoit Hamon’s platform and putting his under-performance down to the candidate’s personal failings. Instead what little support they had appears to have either decamped to LREM or stayed at home.
Last Sunday was just the first round – where the top two candidates (plus anyone who gets over 12.5% of the electoral roll) go through to a run-off this Sunday – but already the picture is clear. Whilst LR finds itself likely reduced to a rump of 70 to 110 seats, the PS is almost completely wiped out, likely to secure only 20 to 30 seats. The far left and far right also under-performed their Presidential scores. The Greens will be totally absent from the chamber. LREM will reign supreme with between 415 and 455 seats – way over the majority of 289 seats which a party needs to govern without other parties.
With perhaps as many as 43% of deputies being female, two thirds of deputies being first timers in the National Assembly, and a range of ethnic minorities present for the first time, this new parliament will be significantly different to any before. But the political effects resulting from the LREM hegemony may be even more significant. Continue reading