Mainstream media's depiction of a "landslide win" by Macron’s party, La Republique en Marche, which together with its MoDem ally is set to win up to 445 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, is somewhat optimistic, as anger in France is building at the way in which electoral outcomes have been manipulated.
Christope Castaner, Macron’s minister for parliamentary relations, admitted that trust in government had become a major problem. He told France 2 television: “It is a failure of this election. We have to take note, we have to restore trust.”
The dismal turnout in this election is a symptom of the cynicism and disillusion of French voters with their political system. Turnout was down to 48.7 percent compared with 57.2 percent in the first round in the French parliamentary elections of 2012.
Out of this total Macron’s party and its MoDem ally have won just over 32 percent of the vote. That means that the two parties which support Macron, only managed to win over 18.47 percent of the French electorate, hardly a “landslide win”.
Macron’s opponents did not do very well either. The centre-right Republicans – the party of Sarkozy, Fillon and Alain Juppé – won just under 16 percent of the vote. The Socialists – the party of François Mitterrand and François Hollande – some 7 perrcent and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed could only win 11 percent of the vote.
Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN) won 13.2 percent to emerge as the third largest party on course to win between one and 10 seats in the National assembly in the 18 June run-off. It had hoped to win as many as 15 seats, but fewer than half of all registered voters cast a ballot on Sunday, unprecedented in France.
Pollsters pointed to voter fatigue, disillusion with politicians and constant media projections that Macron would secure a majority for the high abstention rate. Le Pen blamed the low voter-turnout for the result: “This catastrophic abstention rate should raise the question of the voting rules which keep millions of our compatriots away from the polling stations.”
Florian Philippot, vice-president of the FN told AFP that it had “maybe been disappointed by the score and we have paid the price, I think, for a low turnout”.
The FN leader is currently a lawmaker in the European Parliament. She made it easily into the run-off in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont against 12 rivals and will fight a political novice from Macron’s party, Anne Roquet.
“It’s not a failure,” a FN supporter Lise Trolin told AFP. “We will be the only opposition force in the assembly because the Macron government is a melting pot of all the other parties. We will be the only force with enough guts to challenge Macron.”
Political scientist Christele Marchand-Lagier says many FN voters in Vaucluse in southeastern France, choose the FN because they feel that they have been treated unfairly. In her research at the University of Avignon, Marchand-Lagier has conducted numerous interviews with regional voters over the last 20 years.
One reason they are frustrated is the massive inequality they face: real estate prices are especially high in the Provence due to its popularity among tourists and foreigners, yet it remains one of the poorest regions in France.
“People feel left behind,” says Marchand-Lagier. She told Deutsche Welle that voting for the FN was not linked to racism. “People simply say, if the conservative right failed, why not try something else.”
Before Macron won the French presidency, he promised to fill half or more of the elected seats in his new government with women. The party fielded 214 women and 214 men for seats in the parliamentary round of voting for France’s lower house.
Richard Ferrand, general secretary of Macron’s party, said it had received 19 000 applications from would-be members of parliament, but only 29 percent were from women. The rest were from men.
Rwanda and Bolivia are currently the only countries to have half or more of their parliamentary seats held by women.