Emmanuel Macron seeks majority in France’s legislative elections

Next month’s vote appears likely to result in young, inexperienced assembly

The campaign for next month's legislative elections in France officially opened on Monday, two weeks and a day after the centrist Emmanuel Macron won 66 per cent of the vote in the second round of the presidential election.

Mr Macron would like an absolute majority of 289 out of 577 deputies in the National Assembly or, failing that, a simple majority, to enable him to carry out reforms.

Opinion polls so far indicate that Mr Macron and Edouard Philippe, the conservative prime minister he appointed on May 15th, and who is leading the campaign on behalf of the president's party La République En Marche (LREM), have a good chance of achieving their aims.

The elections take place on June 11th and 18th.


Francois Baroin, the leader of the campaign for the conservative party Les Républicains (LR), still claims to believe that LR will win a majority of seats, making him the prime minister in a cohabitation government. Polls make that appear unlikely.

Mr Macron’s appointment of three defectors from LR to the positions of prime minister, economy minister and budget minister have convinced a substantial number of LR supporters that they too should switch to the “presidential majority”.

Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidates of the extreme right and extreme left, need at least 15 seats each to enable them to form parliamentary groups. Ms Le Pen looks likely to win a seat in the Pas-de-Calais department, and Mr Mélenchon is favoured to defeat a socialist old-timer in Marseille. Both purport to lead the opposition against Mr Macron, whom Mr Mélenchon labels a "monarch".

But polls indicate Ms Le Pen's Front National (FN) and Mr Mélenchon's France Unbowed will perform substantially less well than their candidates did in the presidential election.

‘Progressive majority’

Mr Philippe told the Paris Normandie newspaper on Monday that Mr Macron "wants to build a progressive majority around his programme that is not the prisoner of left-right divisions that fossilised political life for years".

If Mr Macron does not obtain a majority, Mr Philippe warned, “France would go back to the haggling between parties” that characterised the Fourth Republic after the second World War.

In an Ifop poll published by the Journal Du Dimanche on May 21st , 62 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with Mr Macron, while 55 per cent were satisfied with Mr Philippe. They used the words "renewal," "youth," "modernity," but also "presence" and "authority" to explain their approval.

Before the second round of the presidential election on May 7th, polls showed most voters did not want to give Mr Macron's new party a majority in the National Assembly. That seems to have changed. An OpinionWay poll cited by Monday's Le Figaro showed that LREM could win between 280 and 300 seats, an absolute majority for LREM on its own.

The same poll forecast between 150 and 170 seats for LR and the small centrist party UDI, but the UDI leader Jean-Christophe Lagarde told Le Parisien that he too was ready to work with Mr Macron.

The Socialist Party, whose candidate Benoît Hamon was eliminated after winning only 6.36 per cent in the first round, is expected to make its poorest showing in a quarter of a century.

In part because of a new law against holding multiple elective offices, 212 outgoing deputies are not standing for re-election. Following the financial scandals of the presidential campaign, voters are putting a premium on honesty. And LREM, the likely winner of a simple if not an absolute majority, has ensured that half its candidates are political novices. The result is likely to be the youngest and least experienced assembly in modern French history.

Paris deputies

Attention is focusing on several symbolic races. Six cabinet ministers are standing for the assembly. Mr Macron has said that if any of them lose, they must step down from the government.

Bruno Le Maire, who defected from LR to become Mr Macron's economy minister, faces stiff competition from two women standing for LR and the FN. The LR candidate is a former assistant to Le Maire.

LR has also put a candidate up against Agnès Firmin-Le Bodo, the pharmacist whom Mr Philippe, the prime minister, chose to run for his old seat in Normandie.

The former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls faces 21 challengers in the Essonne department south of Paris, including two who, like him, printed "presidential majority" on their posters, without the authorisation of LREM.

Nathalie Kosciuscko-Morizet, an LR candidate on the left bank in Paris, has two LR candidates pitted against her, simply because she made positive statements about Mr Macron.

Mr Macron won 89.96 per cent of the vote in Paris in the second round of the presidential election, and his LREM is expected to sweep the capital. The Socialists hope to retain at best two or three of 10 seats. In the 19th district, the party’s secretary general Christophe Cambadélis is threatened by candidates from LREM and France Unbowed. LR is expected to lose at least half of its six Paris deputies.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is an Irish Times contributor