Macron's government promises to renew politics in France

  • 19 Jun 2017

President Emmanuel Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party won a resounding majority in the national parliament after a historic victory, indicating a major shift in the French political landscape.

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of late French General Charles de Gaulle's resistance call of June 18, 1940, at the Mont Valerien memorial in Suresnes, near Paris. June 18, 2017. ( TRT World and Agencies )

French President Emmanuel Macron's government on Monday promised to reshape the political landscape in the country after winning the commanding parliamentary majority in Sunday's election.

Macron's centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party and its centre-right Modem ally won 350 out of 577 lower house seats in the election.

"A year ago no one would have imagined such a political renewal. We owe it to the president's desire to give a new boost to our democracy. We also owe it to the French people who wanted to give their national representation a new face," French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

The Republicans and their conservative allies will form the largest opposition bloc in parliament with 131 seats, while the far-right National Front won eight.

The Socialist Party and allies won just 44, their lowest in decades.

TRT World's Sarah Morice explains how Sunday's results give the president a strong mandate in parliament to pursue his pro-EU, business-friendly reform plans.

High abstention

As more than 50 percent of voters stayed at home, 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.

"Massive abstention considerably weakens the legitimacy of the new National Assembly and this five-year presidency starts with pretty bad foundations," said National Front leader, Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen promised her party would remain a source of strong opposition alongside other bigger parties, saying: "Don't write us off so fast."

"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 party chief.

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said the high abstention rate was a failure for the governing class and highlighted the need for a new politics.

"The real victory wasn't last night, it will be in five years' time when we have really changed things," Castaner told RTL radio.

He also said dissent would not be tolerated among the dozens elected on the Macron party ticket, including many newcomers such as 24-year-old law school graduate Typhanie Degois.

"Being a member of parliament for Republic on the Move is a commitment to Emmanuel Macron's presidential programme. It's about loyalty," he said.

He added the previous Socialist government was dogged by dissenters pursuing personal goals.

"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 party chief.

What's next?

Philippe and his government were set to resign later in the day or on Tuesday and form a new cabinet, which spokesman Castaner said he believed would again be led by Philippe.

Investors welcomed Macron's win, with the gap between French and German bond yields holding near its tightest level in seven months.

"After the reforms, which we expect Macron to implement, France could turn into the strongest of all major economies in Europe in the next decade, outclassing a Germany that is resting on its laurels and the UK that (through Brexit) is impairing its long-term growth prospects," said Holger Schmieding, chief economist at German bank Berenberg.

Though lower than forecast by pollsters, Macron's majority swept aside France's main traditional parties, humiliating the Socialists and conservative the Republicans party that had alternated in power for decades.

TRT World speaks to Alexandre Kouchner, a political commentator, about the election results.

Budget constraints

Macron wants to move quickly on relaxing labour regulations before overhauling France's unwieldy pension system next year.

During the presidential campaign, he promised to cut corporate tax to 25 percent from 33 percent and make a 50 billion public investment in energy, vocational training, and transport infrastructure.

But he will need to be mindful of a budget deficit as the Bank of France forecasts will once again breach the EU cap of 3 percent of national income this year.

"It is in France's interests, its political credibility, its economic credibility, to conform with its obligations," Pierre Moscovici, the EU's French commissioner for economic and financial affairs told TV channel Public Senat.

Women in parliament

France voted a record number of women into parliament, election results showed on Monday after Macron's LREM fielded a gender-balanced candidate list.

Of the 577 newly elected lawmakers, 223 were female, beating the previous record of 155 set after the last election.

LREM had the highest proportion of women elected, at 47 percent.

"For the first time under the (postwar) Fifth Republic, the National Assembly will be deeply renewed - more diverse, younger," the party's acting president, Catherine Barbaroux, said.

"But above all, allow me to rejoice, because this is a historic event for the representation of women in the National Assembly."

Female representation in the National Assembly has risen steadily, from 12.3 percent at the 2002 election to 38.6 percent this time.

But most parties still put up more men for election, despite France having a system in which a party's funding is restricted if women do not make up at least 49 percent of candidates.