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The 2017 French parliamentary elections

Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What next for President Macron's government after his party's emphatic victory in the 2017 parliamentary elections? What will be the impact on the other major parties and France's relations with the UK? This paper looks at the results of the National Assembly elections, how these work and the functioning of the party system in the Assembly. It also looks to the future, including the challenge's for President Macron's government and the other major parties.

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Results

The 2017 French Parliamentary elections produced an emphatic win for President Macron’s La République En Marche (REM) party. They received 308 seats, and together with the Mouvement Démocrate (MoDEM) party which has joined them in government, they have a significant majority which should allow them to easily carry through their political programme.

Turnout, however, was low, particularly in the second round of voting. Nearly 10% of those who voted in the second round spoiled their ballots or left them blank. 75% of the Members of Parliament elected to the National Assembly are new, and a record 39% of them are women.

How the voting system works

National Assembly elections are run using a two-round voting system. If no candidate achieves more than 50% in the first round, all candidates who achieve a certain threshold of votes (more than 12.5% of registered voters in that constituency), go through to a second round, where the candidate who gains the most votes is elected.

Political groups can be formed by parties in the Assembly who can put together more than 15 members. Being able to form such groups gives them access to extra funding, and more influence on the workings of the Assembly.

Political party funding

Political parties in France are largely funded by the State, and their funding is linked to their performance in the previous parliamentary elections. Large losses of votes and parliamentary seats, therefore, can have lasting impacts.

What next for the major parties?

All the other major political parties must now decide how they will approach the result of the elections. Les Républicains (LR), the main centre-right party, lost a large number of seats, but remain the largest opposition party. They have seen several of their senior figures join Mr Macron’s government. They must decide whether to support Mr Macron’s government in areas where they agree, such as reforms to the economy.

The Parti Socialiste (PS), which was the largest party in the previous National Assembly, lost hundreds of seats and millions of votes. The combination of a large loss of state funding and several senior party figures losing their seats in the Assembly mean it may take them some time to recover from such a loss.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (LFI) movement, while having enough seats to form a political group in the Assembly, are still behind the PS grouping. While this small number of seats will prevent them from making a big impact in the Assembly, the increased funding that will come from their electoral performance may help them take their message direct to the public.

The Front National (FN) increased their seats from 2 to 8, with Marine Le Pen gaining an Assembly seat for the first time. However, they have fallen short of the 15 seats required to form a party bloc in the Assembly, and they may struggle to make a significant impact on the chamber. There is a debate over what direction the party should take in the future, particularly its approach to France’s membership of the Euro and EU.

Challenges ahead for Macron's government

Despite President Macron’s government’s significant majority, it faces challenges to enact its political programme. Economic reforms have proved difficult for previous administrations to pass, and parts of the reform package such as labour reforms are unpopular with the public. The resignation of three Cabinet Ministers following allegations of impropriety will put a renewed focus on Mr Macron’s promises to ‘clean up’ politics in the country. Mr Macron’s proposal to keep a State of Emergency in place and to adopt some of these powers into legislation, making them permanent, has also caused controversy, particularly among human rights groups.

UK-France relations

A recent bi-lateral meeting between President Macron and Prime Minister Theresa May suggests that despite the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the countries will still cooperate on areas of shared interest, such as the challenge of removing extremist content from the internet.

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