French President Emmanuel Macron, left, shakes hands with a polling station official after casting his ballot in the second round of the French parliamentary elections, in Le Touquet, northern France, June 18, 2017. (Christophe Archambault/Pool Photo via AP)
PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron won a commanding majority in France's parliamentary election on Sunday, pollsters' estimates showed, sweeping aside mainstream parties and securing a powerful mandate to push through his pro-business reforms.
The result, if confirmed, redraws France's political landscape, humiliating the Socialist and conservative parties which alternated in power for decades until Macron's election in May.
This is an opportunity for France. One year ago no one would have imagined such a political renewal.
Edouard Philippe, Prime Minister, France
Three pollsters projected that Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) and its Modem allies would win 355-365 seats in the 577-seat lower house, fewer than previously forecast.
They predicted the conservative Republicans and their allies would form the largest opposition bloc with 125-131 seats, while the Socialist Party, in power for the last five years, and its partners would secure 41-49 seats, their lowest ever in the postwar Fifth Republic.
"This is an opportunity for France. One year ago no one would have imagined such a political renewal," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a statement.
Voter turnout was projected to be a record low at about 42percent.
The high abstention rate underlines that Macron will have to tread carefully with reforms in a country with muscular trade unions and a history of street protests that have forced many a past government to dilute new legislation.
Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said it signaled voters "had not wanted to hand Macron a blank cheque."
A volunteer holds an election card in a polling station in the final round of parliamentary elections in Bayonne, southwestern France, June 18, 2017. (Bob Edme / AP)
Nevertheless, the scale of victory gives the president, a pro-European Union centrist, a strong platform from which to make good on campaign promises to revive France's fortunes by cleaning up politics and relaxing regulations that investors say shackle the euro zone’s second-biggest economy.
Victory for Macron, France's youngest leader since Napoleon, marks the routing of the old political class.
Having never held elected office, he seized on the growing resentment towards a political elite perceived as out of touch, and on public frustration at its failure to create jobs and spur stronger growth, to win the Elysee.
His year-old party then filled the political space created by the disarray within the Socialist Party and The Republicans, with Sunday night capping a sequence of events that a year ago looked improbable.
"Tonight, the collapse of the Socialist Party is beyond doubt. The president of the Republic has all the powers," Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said after announcing he would step down as Socialist Party chief.
He said the party would have to rebuild itself from the topdown. Cambadelis was knocked out of the running for parliament in last week's first round of voting.
French far-right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen leaves a polling station after casting her vote in Henin Beaumont, Northern France, June 18, 2017. (Michel Spingler / AP)
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen won a seat in the National Assembly for the first time. Her National Front party clinched at least eight seats in total, a result she celebrated but which may disappoint supporters who a month ago dreamed of entering the Elysee.
"We are the only force of resistance to the dilution of France, its social model and identity," Le Pen said in a televised address in her northern fiefdom of Henin-Beaumont.
"We shall fight with all our strength the harmful projects of the government, which is only in place to implement the roadmap sent by Brussels."
Francois Baroin, who led The Republicans' campaign, said the conservatives would emphasize their differences with Macron, especially on taxes.