In France, a Government Without an Opposition?

Reading the Results of the First Round of Legislative Elections

French President Emmanuel Macron casts his ballot to vote in the first of two rounds of parliamentary elections in Le Touquet, France, June 11, 2017. Christophe Petit Tesson / Reuters

The first round of French legislative elections yielded a stunning victory for La République En Marche, a centrist political movement founded just over a year ago by the newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron. Not only is Macron the youngest person to lead the country since Napoleon, his fledgling party won with around 30 percent of the vote share and is now projected to sweep up 400 to 440 out of the 577 seats in the National Assembly during the final round of parliamentary elections on June 18.

Winning roughly 70 percent of the available seats would be nearly unheard of in the history of the Fifth Republic. Its founding father, Charles De Gaulle, could not even count on such stable majorities. Only a coalition between the right-leaning Rally for the Republic and centrist Union for French Democracy did better with 458 seats in the 1993 legislative elections. Even in that case, each party only fared moderately well on its own and together, their power was still balanced by the Socialist President François Mitterrand. Macron, on the other hand, will likely face very little opposition and will be in a very strong position to enact his centrist agenda, which includes vigorous reforms to the labor market, downsizing the public sector, and relaunching European integration by restoring France’s partnership with Germany.

Meanwhile, the election was a debacle for the other parties. Only six months ago the center-right Les Républicains Party was confidently angling for both the presidency and a governing majority in the legislature, and yet it obtained only 20 percent of the vote share and is now projected to obtain a meager 90 to 130 seats in the National Assembly—even less than it currently holds. It will remain the main opposition party, but it is difficult to see how it will exercise this function. It agrees with most of Macron’s policies and the newly nominated prime minister, Emmanuel Philippe, as well as the minister of economy, Bruno Le Maire, were both lifted from the party’s ranks.

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