French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte exit polling booths after voting in the first round of the two-stage legislative elections, in Le Touquet, northern France.
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte exit polling booths after voting in the first round of the two-stage legislative elections, in Le Touquet, northern France. Christophe Petit-Tesson

Landslide likely for Macron

NEWLY elected centrist President Emmanuel Macron is on course for a landslide victory in the French parliamentary election after the first round of voting.

Macron's one-year-old La Republique En Marche (Republic on the Move) party and its ally MoDem won 32.32% in the first round, ahead of Les Republicains and its allies on 21.56% and the far-right Front National on 13.20%.

The Socialist party, of former president Francois Hollande, won only 9.5% of the vote with its allies.

But the victory for Mr Macron is slightly tainted by the historically low turnout of below 50%, with rival parties warning that French democracy is "ill”.

Undeterred, Mr Macron's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe declared: "France is back.”

The poll shows the mainstream French right struggling to make an impact in the wake of its poor performance in the presidential election.

It looks set to end up with just 85 to 110 seats.

The Republicans were rocked by the failure of their presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, to progress to the second round of voting following relentless allegations of corruption.

Leader Francois Baroin called on supporters to turn out en masse next Sunday, saying: "Our country expects balanced powers, not concentrated in a single party.”

In one of the more surprising results, the far- right Front Nationale won only 13% of votes compared to the 23% it took in the first round of the presidential elections.

This drop could mean Marine Le Pen's party wins between one and four seats only - well short of the 15 needed to form a parliamentary group.

Ms Le Pen finished first in the northern Henin- Beaumont district with 45% the vote but will face a battle against an En Marche candidate in round two in her third attempt at a seat.

The expected outcome next Sunday would give Mr Macron the ability to implement the economic and social reforms he promised during the presidential campaign, including relaxing employment laws, cutting corporation tax and investing billions of euros in job training and renewable energy.

Success would mark a stunning rise to prominence for a party founded just 14 months ago.

It has capitalised on disarray in the two main parties, with the Socialist Party suffering from the unpopularity of Francois Hollande's five-year presidency and high rates of unemployment.

It is predicted to retain just 20 to 30 of the 384 seats it currently holds.

Parliamentary candidates had to secure at least 12.5% of the vote to progress to the second round of voting.

Candidates who receive a majority of votes and the backing of at least 25% are elected in the first round.

The political infancy of En Marche! means many of its parliamentary candidates are newcomers to politics. They include a retired bullfighter, a fighter pilot and a prize-winning mathematician. Half are women.

Candidates were chosen from a pool of 19,000 people who applied - 1700 were interviewed before the final candidates were selected.

The run-off next Sunday will decide the exact number of seats for each party.



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