PARIS (AP) — French voters gave President Emmanuel Macron’s upstart party a solid victory in Sunday’s parliamentary election, handing the centrist a strong mandate to reshape French politics and overhaul the country’s restrictive labor laws.
Polling agency projections suggested that Macron’s Republic on the Move! party could take 355 to 365 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, the powerful lower house. That’s far more than the 289 seats needed for an absolute majority to carry out his program.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, a center-right politician who joined Macron’s movement, said “through their vote, a wide majority of the French have chosen hope over anger.”
With 82 percent of the vote counted, the Interior Ministry said Macron’s party had 42 percent of the vote, the conservative Republicans had 22 percent and the far-right National Front captured 10 percent. The Socialists, who ruled the nation before Macron’s independent presidential victory in May, were decimated and only won six percent of the vote.
Republicans leader Francois Baroin declared his party the main opposition and wished Macron “good luck” because he said he wants France to succeed. He said conservative lawmakers are going to have a strong bloc in the lower house to be able to voice their views.
However, some prickly opponents vowed to do their best to counter Macron’s plans.
Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen registered a massive victory in her northern bastion of Henin-Beaumont, defeating Macron’s candidate as she won her first French parliamentary seat. Le Pen was handily defeated by Macron in the May 7 presidential vote.
Le Pen said she would “fight with all necessary means the harmful projects of the government,” especially what she called Macron’s pro-European, pro-migrant policies. She said her National Front party had won at least six seats — with not all votes counted — an increase from the two seats it held in the outgoing legislature.
Ultra-leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, who Macron also defeated in the presidential vote, said he won in his Marseille district. Melenchon, whose party was projected to win 25 to 30 seats, denounced Macron’s planned labor reforms that would make it easier to hire and fire French workers, calling them a “social coup d’etat” that he would fight.
Voters overall showed little enthusiasm for the election, which could see record low turnout. Experts partly blamed voter fatigue following the May election of Macron, plus voter disappointment with politics.
Confusion also played a role, according to Frederic Dabi of the IFOP polling firm. Macron’s party, which didn’t exist 14 months ago and offered novice candidates from civilian life for many seats, drew from both the left and right to fill its ranks, effectively blurring the country’s traditional political divide.
Macron’s party “vampirized” the left and right after his huge win in the presidential ballot, Dabi said on CNews TV.
After a crushing defeat, Jean-Christophe Cambadelis resigned Sunday from his post as head of the Socialist Party, which dominated the outgoing assembly but was flattened by the unpopularity of former President Francois Hollande.
He said the Socialist party needs to change its ideas and its organization and that a “collective leadership” will replace him. With its allies, the Socialists could get fewer than 50 seats after this vote, projections showed.
“Emmanuel Macron’s triumph is uncontestable, the defeat of the left is unavoidable, and the defeat of the Socialist party is irrevocable,” Cambadelis said.
Across the border, German government officials appeared to be celebrating Macron’s victory. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, wrote Sunday on Twitter that “France now has a strong president with a strong majority in parliament.” Altmaier added: “Good for Europe and for Germany!”
The German Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Twitter as saying that “the road is clear for reforms, in France and in Europe.”
Germany and France have the eurozone’s two biggest economies and are the traditional motor of European integration.