President Emmanuel Macron's party, La République En Marche (LREM), won an absolute majority of seats in the National Assembly on Sunday, though the magnitude of his victory was less than many predicted.
According to estimates by the Kantar Sofres polling institute at 9pm, 364 of 577 deputies in the National Assembly will belong to LREM and the allied centrist party MoDem.
"By their vote, the French have in their great majority preferred hope to anger, optimism to pessimism, confidence to turning inward," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
“One year ago, no one would have imagined such a political renewal,” Mr Philippe continued. “We owe it to the determination of the president of the Republic to give new life to our democracy.”
The prime minister interpreted abstention by an estimated 57 per cent of registered voters as “an ardent obligation to succeed”. It was the highest rate in a legislative election since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958.
‘Time of action’
Mr Philippe said he would try to win public confidence “by exemplarity, faultless commitment and tangible results. The time of action begins tonight. This majority is united behind the government to carry out the president’s programme.”
With an estimated 131 seats, the conservative party Les Républicains (LR) and its allies become the second force in the National Assembly.
François Baroin, who led the LR legislative campaign, congratulated Mr Macron, “the principal artisan of this victory, who holds all powers to carry out the mission the French have given him”. He said his group would make its differences with Mr Macron heard, particularly on fiscal policy.
The record abstention level showed that "France is fractured as never before", Mr Baroin said. "The president must take account of these messages."
The Socialists and their allies will have about 44 seats, of which 30 for the Socialists, who held 299 seats in the outgoing assembly. The former ruling party nonetheless escaped the humiliation of being surpassed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far left France Unbowed, which won 16 seats, for a total of 25 with its Communist allies.
The Socialist Party leader, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, announced that he was resigning. Like Mr Baroin, he said his party must be rebuilt from the bottom up. "Voters wanted to give a chance to the new president," he said. "They left no chance to his adversaries. Tonight, the president has all powers: a government in the palm of his hand and a parliament under his orders. Yet this triumph has an artificial side to it. The problems of our country cannot be solved with a wave of the magic wand."
Marine Le Pen's Front National won about seven seats. After winning a seat in the National Assembly for the first time, with close to 58 per cent of the vote, Ms Le Pen was much more in form than she had been since losing the presidency to Mr Macron on May 7th.
Referring to the record abstention, Ms Le Pen said, “The election of Monsieur Macron seems to have plunged the country into a state of indifference and weariness towards public life. Massive abstention undermines the legitimacy of the Assembly, and this term is off to a bad start.”
The fact that her party will win so few seats with such a high percentage of the vote strengthens her demand for proportional representation, Ms Le Pen said.
Mr Mélenchon also won a seat, and was, like Le Pen, combative. He called the mass abstention “a civil general strike” that will translate into “social resistance”. He warned the government: “Not an inch of social rights will be given up without a struggle.”