An optimistic President Macron shakes hands with people in the crowd as he leaves his home on the eve of the second round of the French parliamentary elections.
President Emmanuel Macron completed his astonishing rise to power on Sunday when the party he founded about a year ago, La République En Marche, won a clear majority in the second and final round of parliamentary elections. En Marche and its allies won 350 seats out of 577 in the National Assembly.
Like Macron, who took office a month ago, many En Marche candidates elected to the lower house of Parliament on Sunday have never held elected office before. Half of the party’s candidates were women and a large number were ethnic minorities.
“For the first time under the Fifth Republic, the National Assembly will be profoundly renewed, more diverse, younger, with many professional, community and political backgrounds,” Catherine Barbaroux, the interim president of En Marche, said in a speech following Sunday’s vote.
The success of Macron’s centrist “third way” is a sizmic shift in French politics, as control of the French government has alternated between the Socialist and conservative parties for decades. The center-right Republicans and their allies came in second with 135 seats, and the center-left Socialists took 49 seats.
While the Socialists won both the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012, Sunday’s election gave them their lowest tally ever. Jean-Christophe Cambadelis announced after the vote that he will resign as head of the Socialist Party. “Tonight, the collapse of the Socialist Party is beyond doubt. The president of the Republic has all the powers,” he said.
Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader who lost to Macron in the presidential race, won a seat in the National Assembly for the first time. While at one point analysts suggested her National Front party might win as many as 50 seats, it took only eight.
It wasn’t all good news for Macron. Turnout was around 43 percent, a record low. It’s not clear if that means voters aren’t very enthusiastic about Macron’s pro-European Union, pro-business reforms, or that they didn’t think he needed their help. Regardless, his opponents seized on that point to undercut his mandate.
“Abstention has broken new records, and mistrust of the republic has reached a peak,” Le Pen said. “This abstention considerably weakens the legitimacy of the new National Assembly.”
There was still a great deal of enthusiasm coming from government officials in Germany. During a meeting with Macron last month, Chancellor Angela Merkel said they had agreed to develop a “common road map” to strengthen the European Union. Per the AP:
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, wrote Sunday on Twitter that “France now has a strong president with a strong majority in parliament.” Altmaier added: “Good for Europe and for Germany!”
The German Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Twitter as saying that “the road is clear for reforms, in France and in Europe.”
A Merkel spokesperson said she congratulates Macron on his “clear parliamentary majority” and looks forward to continuing “good cooperation for Germany, France, Europe.”