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Wave of young lawmakers elected in France, even as contemporaries shun vote

© Guillaume Souvant, AFP | LREM’s Sacha Houlié, 28, founder of "Youth with Macron”, shakes hands while campaigning on June 16, 2017 in Poitiers. Houlié won a National Assembly seat in the 2nd district of the Vienne on Sunday.

Text by Tracy MCNICOLL

Latest update : 2017-06-20

France’s lower house National Assembly has seen a sweeping renewal after Sunday's second round election brought a considerably younger legislature to the 577-seat chamber.

A record 424 first-time National Assembly lawmakers will take their seats in the semi-circular chamber when the first session begins on June 27. More women than ever before will take their places in the house, but also many more young people than there were on the last roster of deputies, elected in 2012.

In the outgoing legislature, a single lawmaker was under 30: far-right National Front (FN) star Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, party leader Marine Le Pen’s niece, who declined to stand for re-election in this race. One other 20-something was elected in 2012: Les Républicains’ Gérald Darmanin, then aged 29. As it happens, Darmanin – who was named Budget Minister after 39-year-old President Emmanuel Macron’s election last month – didn’t stand for re-election, either.

(L) Socialist Party chief Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, (R) Junior Minister for Digital Affairs Mounir Mahjoubi © AFP

Darmanin is not the youngest member of Macron’s government. That mantle belongs to Mounir Mahjoubi, the 33-year-old state secretary for digital affairs, who won a seat last night and the right to keep his job in the cabinet. Mahjoubi, running in the French capital’s 16th district, helped fell the seat’s longtime incumbent, Socialist Party chief Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, in the first round on June 11. The 65-year-old Cambadélis stepped down as party leader on Sunday night.

Flash forward to 2017 and Sunday night’s freshly elected slate of lawmakers includes no fewer than 39 rookies under 30. The new, rejuvenated National Assembly’s average age will have dropped by more than six years since 2012, decreasing from 54 years of age to 48 years and eight months.

Once again, the youngest member, known as the "benjamin de l’assemblée", is a parliamentarian for the FN. Ludovic Pajot, 23, elected in the Pas-de-Calais’s 10th district, beat out a candidate from Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) to win the seat. Pajot is part of an FN wave in northern France’s erstwhile rust belt, one of five of the perpetual pariah party’s new northern deputies, including Marine Le Pen herself. The young Pajot was already a municipal and regional councillor, known locally for his anti-migrant stance.

A second newly elected deputy born in 1993, like Pajot, is 24-year-old Typhanie Degois, elected for Macron’s LREM in Savoie’s 1st district. A fresh law school graduate, Degois beat the conservative Les Républicains incumbent Dominique Dord, the 57-year-old mayor of Aix-les-Bains, who had held the seat for 20 years.

To be sure, the younger new lawmakers are not spread evenly across all parties. Far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Unsubmissive France movement boasts the youngest winners entering this next assembly, with an average age of 43 years and four months, ahead of Macron’s LREM (45 years, six months) and the FN (48 years, eight months). Each of those parties, it bears noting, shook up the system in their own way during this spring’s election season.

The more conventional parties’ deputies bound for the revamped National Assembly, meanwhile, are fiftysomethings, on average: Les Républicains (52 years old), the Socialist Party (54 years), the French Communist Party (54 years, six months) and the centrist, Les Républicains-allied UDI (56 years, six months).

Still, the younger new legislature and its influx of twentysomethings is somewhat misleading. While nearly 20 times more lawmakers under 30 have won seats this time around, those parliamentarians’ contemporaries declined en masse to go vote. An Ipsos/Sopra Steria poll for FRANCE 24 conducted over the three days before Sunday’s election showed more than 70 percent of voters under 35 planned to sit it out. It may fall to the youngest lawmakers to give their generation a renewed sense that politics matter after all.

Date created : 2017-06-19

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