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Polls point to landslide win for Macron's party in French legislative vote

© Valery Hache, AFP | La Republique en Marche! (REM) parliamentary candidate Caroline Reverso-Meinietti campaigns in Nice on June 3, 2017.

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2017-06-07

President Emmanuel Macron’s political party is on pace to win an absolute majority in France’s parliamentary election this month, with the added advantage of a splintered opposition, according to leading public opinion firms.

Macron’s upstart La République en Marche! (The Republic On the Move!) movement will secure between 350 and 400 seats in France’s 577-seat National Assembly, perhaps giving the young, centrist president the largest parliamentary majority since former president Jacques Chirac in 2002, the directors of polling for the Ifop, Kantar Public and OpinionWay institutes agreed.

“If En Marche! gets around 350 seats, it will be a majority at least as good as the one [former president Nicolas] Sarkozy enjoyed in 2007. But there are projections that go as high as 400 seats, which means an extremely large majority that has rarely been seen since the end of World War II,” Bruno Jeanbart, a director at OpinionWay, told members of the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris.

Macron, 39, a former economy minister who had never won an election before last month, shocked France and the world by handily winning the May 7 presidential run-off. His momentum is expected to carry over into France’s two-round legislative elections on June 11 and 18, and wreak further havoc on established political parties.

En Marche! is a virtual fragmentation bomb, meaning it explodes in one place first – and that was the presidential election – and now it will continue exploding in the legislative elections,” Kantar’s Edouard Lecerf said. “It will continue inflicting damage on political life as we know it, creating shockwaves at the local level. It will reorder the way we see and interpret the political landscape.”

The mainstream conservative Les Républicains party is expected to arrive in second place in the parliamentary vote, with between 110 and 130 seats, the opinion experts believed.

The biggest loss of the election could once again fall on France’s embattled Socialist Party, which finished an embarrassing fifth place in the presidential ballot, with just 6.35 percent support among constituents. The Socialists could win as few as 15 seats in the next assembly, the minimum number needed to create a parliamentary group, calling into question its future existence.

Historic Socialist strongholds across the country – such as in the 3rd district of the Landes department, or the 4th district of Marseille – were susceptible of sliding towards Macron’s centrist party. “The game has changed,” OpinionWay’s Jeanbart said. “That is the reason that we are going to see a huge upheaval. The logic that was based on a left-wing versus right-wing concept no longer applies in this election.”

Far-right voters downcast

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who finished second in the presidential contest, and leftist firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon will likely win their individual parliamentary races, but their parties may otherwise face disappointment on Election Day.

Le Pen is running for a seat representing Hénin-Beaumont, a far-right bastion in northern France. And while support for her anti-immigrant National Front (FN) party rose as high as 21 percent during the presidential election, it has since slipped to around 18 percent nationally.

Pollsters said many far-right voters who felt “disappointed” by the presidential results – as well as over internal party tensions – would sit out the upcoming elections.

Furthermore, both the main opposition Les Républicains and Socialist Party have declared they would do everything to rebuff far-right candidates, including drop out of certain races to ensure the candidate with the best chance of beating the FN ticket, triumphs in the second round. The experts said the FN could garner between five and 15 seats.

Mélenchon, who finished the presidential race with 19.58 percent of votes and within striking distance of third place, is now favoured to win a seat representing central Marseille. But left-wing sympathizers are also unenthusiastic in the wake of the presidential poll and Mélenchon is unlikely to find more than a handful of comrades at the National Assembly. Pollsters believe the far-left could claim between 15 and 40 seats.

Unlike opinion polls ahead of the EU referendum in Britain and the US presidential election last year, opinion polls in France have recently proved to be surprisingly accurate.

The pollsters nevertheless said that given the hundreds of races across France, and the possibility of second-round ballots that include three candidates, their prediction models for the legislate election were “much weaker” than they were for the presidency.

Reality check

The opinion gurus said President Macron was still enjoying a honeymoon period with French voters, and there appeared to be little stopping his current ascendance.

Allegations that one of his ministers, Richard Ferrand, once used his influence to secure contracts for his entourage has not hurt En Marche! so far.

Macron stands by embattled ally Ferrand

But that doesn’t mean it won’t come back to haunt Macron’s team later, the polling directors warned.

“It will interesting to see how En Marche!, which is still a new party, will deal with the difficulties that established political parties inevitably face. For example, mayoral elections are coming up in 2020, and En Marche! will have to decide who among them is capable of winning those elections,” said Jeanbart.

En Marche! has drawn from a very large spectrum of candidates, from both the left and right, and it remains to be seen if they can stay united when voting on things like labour reform or taxing France’s wealthiest earners,” Ifop opinion director Jérôme Fourquet noted. “Their biggest challenges are yet to come.”

Date created : 2017-06-06

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