Sunday was a good day for French President Emmanuel Macron. Just weeks after his remarkable win in the French presidential election, Macron’s recently established political party took a huge lead in the first round of voting for the country’s legislature, the National Assembly. The Republic on the Move party is projected to win 390 to 430 of the French Parliament’s 577 seats, according to an Ipsos-Sopra analysis. But observers noticed an uncomfortable detail in the electoral figures: Turnout of registered voters was the lowest it has been in any parliamentary election under France’s Fifth Republic. Turnout in the first round of voting for France’s National Assembly was the lowest in the history of the Fifth Republic.
It’s certainly an unusual detail. Voter turnout in French elections is often remarkably high by American standards. Macron had billed himself as the leader of a popular centrist movement, but less half of registered French voters bothered to turn up.
Political opponents used the turnout to criticize the legitimacy of the French president. “I am particularly concerned about the fact that 1 French person out of 2 did not vote,” Valérie Pécresse, president of the center-right Republicans party in the Ile-de-France region, told Le Monde newspaper. “We weaken Parliament, which is a democratic counter-power. And we take the risk of a single party, a single thought, a single program.”