French Voters Gave Macron Unprecedented Trust Credit

The new president turned the French political system on its head

Two rounds of parliamentary elections in France have finished. The first round, held on 11 June, gave a picture of the actual power balance in the Fifth Republic. So, at the end of the first round Macron’s party “Republic on the Move” with the Democrats received just over 28 %, “The Republicans” – 16 %, the National Front of Marie Le Pen – 13 %, the left party “Inflexible France” – 11 %, socialists – 10 %.

The electoral system in France is based on a majority principle, involving the combination of two tours. If the leader in his constituency got more than 50 % of votes in the first round, then there is a second round, in which candidates with more than 12.5 % of votes may participate. The second round is set a high electoral threshold, which is a serious obstacle for small parties and opposition parties. Traditional parties make various election alliances to improve their position and don't let opposition to pass in Parliament. The second tour gives a distorted picture of the power balance in the country and isn’t able to show voters’ political preferences.

So, at the end of the second round 28 % of votes of Macron’s party in alliance with the Democrats received in the first round turned in 350 mandates out of 577 in the second round, i.e. in an absolute majority; 16 % of Republicans – 113 mandates; 11 % of J.L. Mélenchon has only 17 mandates; 13 % of M. Le Pen – only 8 mandates (M. Le Pen, for the first time entered Parliament, can’t form a faction, as she needs to have 15 mandates), and 10 % of votes of socialists turned into 29 mandates.

A small number of votes of the traditional parties (Socialists and Republicans) are explained due to the negative legacy of F. Hollande and the political scandals around the Republican nominee for President F. Fillon. Emmanuel Macron, who pursued a policy aimed at divisions within the traditional parties, also played a significant role in this situation. In particular, he undermined the unity of the Republicans by the appointment of two their representatives as the Prime Minister and Minister of Economy. Today, Republicans quarrel about whether they should strengthen the centrist vector or establish relations with M. Le Pen.

The Socialists found themselves in a situation when they need to fight for their political survival. Part of their electorate has gone over to Macron’s camp; the other part preferred the opposite direction – the left party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

Republicans associate Macron’s success with the “hegemonistic domination”. At the same time, low voter turnout calls into question the moral legitimacy of the new composition of the National Assembly.

Low voter turnout can be explained not only by voter fatigue and hot weather, but the obvious undemocratic shortcomings of the majoritarian electoral system, operating by the principle “winner takes everything”. As a result, the power balance in Parliament doesn’t reflect real political preferences of voters.

Macron has turned the French political system on its head. Both traditional parties, replacing each other in power for decades, moved to the political periphery. There was a radical renewal of the Deputy corps (75 %); many experienced MPs were replaced by political newcomers, marching now Macron. Broad parliamentary support gives the social-liberal Macron full power and allows him to implement the announced reforms. The first reform will be the liberalization of the labor market and simplification of the pension system.

According to observers, thanks to Macron’s victories he has gained immense self-confidence. He intends to reform not only France but also the European Union. He promises Europe a new beginning: strengthening the political components of a monetary union (one budget, own Finance Minister and its own Parliament), increase of financial support for the countries that need it, aligning the living conditions in the EU. These promises sound like music to the ears of the political class of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Germany. The German Social Democrats and the current President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker also support the French President. But the French model of a new Europe confronts with a German model. The main controversies are in economic policy. Merkel, according to her own words, sees no need to change her policy just because France got a new President. She will not conflict with Macron in Europe due to his support among the German Social Democrats. According to observers, she will take him by the hand and lead him to the path of realism. The French voter will face the same problem soon. As it is said, to whom much has been given, much will be required.

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