When Emmanuel Macron launched his outsider campaign for France’s presidency in November 2016, most observers thought he had little chance of winning – he was “too young” and had support from neither of the major parties. Then he squeaked out a win in the first round and went on to crush the extreme right-winger Marine Le Pen nearly two-to-one in the May 7 finale. Now the candidates put forward by Macron and his party, La République en Marche (LREM) have dominated the first round of the legislative elections, with potential wins in more than 400 seats out of a total of 577. The legislative elections have served to amplify the restructuring that was already taking place during the presidential elections. This featured a collapse of the Socialist Party, a weakening of Les Républicains (LR), and a significant drop for both Le Pen’s Front National (FN) and the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed).
The overall abstention rate in the first round of the legislatives on June 11 was 51.3%, a jump of 8.5 points over 2012’s 42.8% – the previous record low. The abstention rate has steadily risen since the 2002 reform that moved the legislative elections to immediately after the presidential election. The feeling for many voters seems to be that the president should be able to move forward with his proposals – tacit approval without an explicit vote.
According to an Ipsos poll on the eve of the first round, 24% of respondees agreed with Macron and wanted him to have a majority in the assembly; another 28%, while they didn’t agree with the new president, also felt that it was preferable for him to have a majority.