Explainer: France’s parliamentary elections

Explainer: France’s parliamentary elections
By Chris Harris
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French voters are back at the polls again on Sunday just over a month since Emmanuel Macron was elected the country’s new president.

This time it’s a parliamentary poll as the country elects its 577 MPs – or députés – to the National Assembly.

Why is the election important?

Macron was elected in May on pledges to overhaul labour rules to make hiring and firing easier, cut corporate tax and invest billions in areas including job training and renewable energy.

If he doesn’t get a majority in parliament it would make passing laws tougher and deliver a major blow to his reform agenda.

In a country with unemployment stubbornly hovering around 10 percent some argue the reforms are much needed.

How does the election work?

The election involves each district in France electing an MP to the national assembly.

If a candidate wins more than 50 percent of votes in the first round on June 11 then he or she is elected.

If not there is a run-off on June 18 involving only candidates who netted more than 12.5 percent of votes in the first round.

Which parties are on the ballot paper?

The four main parties are Macron’s new Republic On The Move (centrist), The Republicans (centre-right conservative), Le Pen’s National Front (far-right) and the Socialist Party (centre-left).

Macron’s remarkable election success – his new party was born just over a year ago – has broken the traditional two-party grip on French politics.

So June’s parliamentary elections will be a key test for the survival of the Socialist Party, which has ruled France for the past five years but is forecast to get between 15 and 30 seats.

Also at stake is the unity of The Republicans, which poll second but are divided on whether to back Macron.

The National Front, reeling from a weaker-than-expected score for chief Marine Le Pen in the presidential election, is expected to do much better than the two MPs it had in the previous parliament.

What do opinion polls say?

They forecast that Macron’s party and its center-right allies will get at least 30 percent of the votes, The Republicans and its allies around 20 percent and the National Front around 17 percent.

That outcome would transform into a landslide majority in the second round, opinion polls show.

While elections in the lower house of parliament’s 577 constituencies can be tricky to predict, especially with a total of 7,882 candidates vying for those seats, even Macron’s rivals have been saying they expect Macron to get a majority.

Their strategy over the past days has rather been to urge voters to make sure the opposition will be big enough to have some weight in parliament. “We shouldn’t have a monopolistic party,” ex-prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve, a Socialist, told Reuters.

What are the key things to look out for?

The most important number is 289 – the minimum number of seats needed by Macron to have a majority.


It will also be interesting to see the extent to which Macron’s new party will redraw France’s political landscape.

The socialists enjoyed a majority in the last parliament with 331 MPs; they are expected to get around 30 this time.

Another factor to monitor is whether Marine Le Pen’s National Front party can capitalise on strong support in the presidential election and improve on the two MPs it had in the parliament last time around.

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