Pollsters are projecting that French President Emmanuel Macron's party is on course to win a crushing parliamentary majority following the first round Sunday of legislative elections marked by widespread voter apathy.
Pollsters' projected that as many as one-third of votes went to Macron's camp in the first stage of the two-part election — putting his candidates comfortably ahead of all opponents going into the decisive second round of voting next Sunday for the 577 seats in the lower-house National Assembly.
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Pollsters estimated that 400 seats or more could end up in the hands of the Macron camp — and that the opposition in parliament would be fragmented as well as small. The National Front of far-right leader Marine Le Pen seemingly failed to convert her strong showing in the presidential election into a large number of legislative seats. Pollsters projected it could have 10 or fewer legislators — more than the two it had in the last parliament, but not enough to make the National Front the major opposition force Le Pen was hoping for after she advanced for the first time to the presidential runoff vote that Macron won on May 7.
The two mainstream parties that dominated French politics for decades were again left licking their wounds, marginalized by the swing of voter support behind Macron's political revolution.
The former banker and economics minister who had never before held elected office gambled correctly that voters were ready for something completely new: a movement occupying the political centre ground, made up largely of new faces, many of them with no political experience at all.
'Catastrophic' low turnout
The record-low turnout, however, took some shine off the achievement for Macron's Republic on the Move! — a fledgling party fighting its first-ever election and dedicated to providing France's youngest-ever president with the legislative majority he needs to be effective and enact his promised program of far-reaching change for France.
Le Pen lamented the "catastrophic" low turnout in the first round of parliamentary elections.
Runner-up in France's presidential election, she urged "patriotic" voters to turn out en masse in the second round June 18 and boost her party's small presence in the National Assembly. She hopes to be a strong opposition force, but her party is only projected to hold about a dozen seats.
She also slammed the electoral system as unfavourable to smaller parties like hers.
The head of the conservative Republicans party, François Baroin, also urged voters to turn out in larger numbers next week to help ensure that Macron's party faces a robust opposition.
Voters continue to reject establishment parties
Voter rejection of old-style, established politics — already seen in the April-May two-round presidential vote that handed power to 39-year-old Macron — was again felt in the legislative vote.
Pollsters projected a disastrous result Sunday for the Socialists that held power in the last parliament and that the conservative Republicans could end up with fewer than 130 seats. The conservatives had 215 seats in the outgoing parliament.
For the Socialists and their allies, the damage Sunday was even worse. They had 314 seats in the last election but could end up with 25 or fewer seats in the new National Assembly, pollsters projected.