French election: Macron team complete rout with Assembly win

The French president celebrates election victory in a vote that sees a record number of women elected.

French President Emmanuel Macron is celebrating a convincing victory in National Assembly elections that gives him the mandate to push through wide-ranging social and economic reforms.

Three-quarters of the assembly are new members and a record 223 of the 577 MPs are women.

Mr Macron’s fledgling La République en Marche (LREM) won 308 seats with 43% of the vote.

But the 42.64% turnout is a record low for modern-day France.

Together with its centrist MoDem allies, LREM now forms a bloc of 350 seats, well over the 289 seats needed to control parliament.

The election result means that a party that only began life in April 2016 now has complete control of France’s lower house of parliament and that means the president can press on with steering through his broad programme of reform.

“He now has his majority, beyond all his hopes,” warned commentator Etienne Lefebvre. “Undoubtedly that will make his task easier but it’ll also increase expectation.”

In line with tradition, the government which was only formed last month under Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, will resign on Monday and be replaced by a new team.

The old political guard in the assembly is a shadow of its former self. The centre-right Republican-led grouping has 137 seats, and the outgoing Socialists 44.

For the first time, the far-left La France Insoumise (France unbowed) enters parliament with 27 seats while the far-right National Front (FN) has increased its number to eight, including leader Marine Le Pen.

Never has the French parliament had so many women MPs – 38.65% of the total – and that is largely down to President Macron’s policy of equal gender selection.

Many of LREM’s MPs have come from across civil society:

Other LREM deputies include éclair entrepreneur Brigitte Liso, organic farmer Sandrine Le Feur, head teacher Mireille Robert and entrepreneur Patrice Perrot.

FN leader Marine Le Pen was Mr Macron’s main challenger for the presidency and before now has never held a parliamentary seat. While her close adviser Florian Philippot failed to get elected, she is joined by her partner, Louis Alliot, and another senior FN figure, Gilbert Collard.

Many of the loudest voices from the left have gone but Jean-Luc Mélenchon of La France Insoumise has vowed to challenge Mr Macron’s plans to reform labour laws, arguing the president does not have the “legitimacy to enforce the social coup d’état he had planned”.

The most powerful opposition will come from the Republicans although the rise of LREM has left their party divided. Gone are big-name leaders like Nicolas Sarkozy, François Fillon and Alain Juppé. Some in the party have offered to work with the new government but others, like Eric Ciotti, see them as traitors.

He has a sweeping list of reforms planned to revive France’s economy, from simplifying labour laws to lowering unemployment and cutting corporation tax from 33% to 25%.

A large mandate will give him the confidence to take on France’s powerful unions but a powerful challenge is likely.

The Macron government wants to make budget savings of €60bn (£51bn; $65bn), so that France sticks to the EU’s government deficit limit of 3% of GDP (total output). Public servants would be cut in number by 120,000 – through natural wastage, possibly to soften opposition from France’s powerful unions.

The new president would simultaneously reinvest €50bn and create a separate €10bn fund for renewing industry.

What are French President Macron’s policies?

No-one yet knows, says Prof Marlière, who sees the role of French president, according to the constitution, as the most powerful political position in Europe.

“What Macron is doing,” he says, “is appealing to the right wing of the Socialists and also to the centre right: that’s really about creating something new. Normally you don’t put together these two sides.”

New parties have made a bid for power in Europe before, in Spain and in Italy, but few have gone into government, other than the left-wing Syriza party in Greece, which has struggled to live up to its campaign promises.

The task for President Macron will be to hold together the left and right elements of his party, while still purporting to hold the centre ground. His first big test will be his planned labour reforms, leaked drafts of which have already angered trade unions.

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