Published: Sat, June 17, 2017
World News | By Carolyn Briggs

French see no one to counter Macron, set to sweep parliament

French see no one to counter Macron, set to sweep parliament

PARIS — Candidates in the runoff of French parliamentary elections hit the campaign trail on Monday, shaken by a record abstention rate in the first round and the prospect of a sweep by President Emmanuel Macron's new party that would shatter the political landscape.

French President Emmanuel Macron's party, the "Republic on the Move", is close to winning another nationwide election, only a month after Mr. Macron was elected president.

After the first round of voting on Sunday, analysts predict President Emmanuel Macron's party and a smaller ally party could take roughly 70 percent of the seats in France's National Assembly.

Socialist Party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis warned that Mr Macron's party could end up "almost without any real opposition". If there is no clear victor, all candidates who win more than 12.5 percent in the first round qualify for the second round next Sunday.

Macron, an upstart centrist, formed his On the Move movement less than 14 months ago then turned it into a political party, promising to return politics to the people.

Former Republicans party leader Jean-Francois Cope said the results were "a disaster".

Reformist Mr Macron has pledged to strengthen European Union ties, stabilise public finances, and loosen strictures on business.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen put on a fearless face in front of the cameras on election night and trumpeted her own first-place score in the northern constituency she is vying to represent.

He has been praised for appointing a balanced cabinet that straddles the left-right divide and taking a leading role in Europe's fight-back against US President Donald Trump on climate change.

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On Sunday, 48.7 per cent of some 47.5 million eligible voters cast their ballots in 67,000 voting centres opened across the country to elect 577 lawmakers to the lower house of Parliament or the National Assembly.

They also blamed the long election cycle, with party primaries that started past year before the two rounds of presidential and then legislative voting, for turning voters off.

"Working class voters vote less in parliamentary elections than in presidential ones", he said.

Speaking from the far-right stronghold of Henin-Beaumont in northern France, Le Pen, trying for the fourth time to win a seat in parliament, said she is well ahead in the constituency where she is running "more than 45 percent".

The Socialists, previously France's ruling party, and their allies won just 9.5 per cent. Projections showed them losing up to 200 seats.

Polls suggest the elections will strongly favor Macron's party and dramatically shake up French politics, punishing the traditional left and right parties and leaving no single strong opposition force.

Le Pen's National Front had an even more dismal result, between 3-10 MPs, meaning that once again it won't have a group in the National Assembly.

The weak turnout will likely narrow the second-round field, because candidates need the support of 12.5 per cent of registered voters to qualify. The 29-year-old Parisian said the election results "fill me with enthusiasm".

Le Pen has her hopes set on winning a first-ever seat in Parliament in second-round voting despite the dramatic fall of her National Front party.

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