The campaign for the French legislative election is well underway now. In just under a week, on 11 June, voters will head to the polling stations to elect their representatives. The results could be historic.
The new French president, Emmanuel Macron, and his new party, La République En Marche! (LRM), are seeking a majority in parliament to deliver on his progressive program. The political fallout from the presidential election within the two main parties, Les Républicains (LR) and Parti Socialiste (PS), and the rise of both the far-right and far-left parties, Front National (FN) and La France Insoumise (FI) respectively, have undermined the traditional parties and, along with the personal appeal of Macron, create the perfect conditions for LRM to win the election.
Fillon’s elimination in the first round of the presidential election, despite being the long-time favourite, has plunged the right-wing party, LR, into disarray. The nomination of important Republican figureheads to positions in the Macron government – Édouard Philippe as prime minister and Bruno Le Maire, a candidate defeated by Fillon during the primaries, as minister of the economy – further weakened the standing of the party. The Republicans are credited by polls with 20% of the voting intentions and their leader, François Baroin, has taken a soft approach toward the new president in the hopes of having a large enough cohort of MPs to force LRM into a coalition or a cohabitation.
Polling at 8.5%, PS, on the other hand, is fighting for its survival. The disastrous performance of Benoît Hamon in the presidential election – the lowest score for the party since its inception in 1969 – and the nomination of important figureheads of the party such Gérard Collomb, the long-time senator and mayor of Lyon, as minster of the interior, weaken the party’s standing. The increasing popularity of La France Insoumise and of LRM also split its potential share of the vote. The situation is so dire that, according to some polls, even Manuel Valls, the former prime minister, is in danger in his constituency in Évry against a candidate from FI. In an attempt to win some voters back from LRM, the leadership of the party has also taken a conciliatory approach toward President Macron and is open to a potential coalition were LRM to fail to get a majority.
FN and FI are fighting to become the official opposition to Macron’s presidency. Neither party will gain enough seats to qualify as such in parliament. Their respectively strong performances in presidential election – Marine Le Pen lost in the second round with 45% of the vote and Mélenchon received 19% of votes in the first round – do not translate into legislative election success. Recent polls credit FN with 19% of the voting intention and 10-20 seats, and FI with 13% of the vote and potentially 20-30 seats. But Marine Le Pen and Mélenchon hope to win the ideological battle and oppose Macron’s liberalism with their respective brands of social nationalism.
Faced with a weak opposition and basking in the aura of President Macron, LRM stand to win either an outright majority, at least 290 seats, or at least be the largest party in parliament. Recent polls credit LRM with around 30% of the voting intentions and projections give the new party between 250 and 300 seats. It would be the first time in French history that a new party, in its first legislative election, has won a majority… Historic indeed.