President Emmanuel Macron’s government on Monday promised to renew politics in France as final official results showed he had won the commanding parliamentary majority he wanted to push through his far-reaching pro-growth reforms. Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party and its centre-right Modem ally won 350 seats out of 577 in the lower house, the results showed after a vote that saw a record low turnout for a parliamentary poll in the postwar Fifth Republic.
Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said the high abstention rate — more than 50 percent of voters stayed at home — was a failure for the political class and highlighted the need to change politics in France. “The real victory wasn’t last night, it will be in five years time when we have really changed things,” Castaner told RTL radio.
Though lower than forecast by pollsters in the run-up to the vote, Macron’s majority swept aside France’s main traditional parties, humiliating the Socialist and conservative The Republicans party that alternated in power for decades. “Victory for the Centre” read the headline of the left-leaning Liberation newspaper. Financial paper Les Echos’ banner read “The Successful Gamble”.
Castaner said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and his government would resign later in the day and a new cabinet formed in the coming days. He said he believed Philippe would be reappointed premier. Sunday’s high abstention rate underlines that Macron will have to tread carefully with reforms in a country with muscular trade unions and a history of street protests that have forced many a past government to dilute new legislation. Macron’s twin victories in last month’s presidential election and in Sunday’s parliamentary vote marks the routing of the old political class.
Macron, France’s youngest leader since Napoleon who had never before held elected office, seized on the growing resentment towards a political elite perceived as out of touch, and on public frustration at its failure to create jobs and spur stronger growth, to win the presidency. His year-old party then filled the political space created by the disarray within the Socialist Party and the Republicans, with Sunday night capping a sequence of events that a year ago looked improbable.
“The collapse of the Socialist Party is beyond doubt. The president of the Republic has all the powers,” Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said late on Sunday after announcing he would step down as Socialist Party chief. The election saw a record number of women voted into parliament, due largely to Macron’s decision to field a gender-balanced candidate list.