French President Emmanuel Macron’s party and its allies have won the biggest share of the vote in the first round of legislative elections on Sunday, according to official figures published by the Interior Ministry and based on a partial count of votes.
Macron’s Republic on the Move party (LREM) and its allies were set to win over 30 percent of the vote, the ministry said shortly after voting stations closed.
The figures did not include votes from France’s biggest cities and such early counts tend to be less precise than pollsters’ estimates, which put Macron’s party close to 33 percent.
The emergence of LREM little as a start-up movement just over a year ago has triggered a major shift in the political landscape in France.
The ministry said the abstention rate on Sunday was a high 51.4 percent.
Forecasts based on partial results showed Macron widening his centrist revolution, with his Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) party and its ally MoDem tipped to win between 400 and 445 seats in the 577-member National Assembly in next Sunday’s second round.
Such a share would give Macron one of the biggest parliamentary majorities for 60 years.
“France is back,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe declared triumphantly.
“For the past month, the president has shown confidence, willingness and daring in France and on the international stage,” Philippe said, calling the result a vindication of Macron’s “winning strategy”.
But the vote was marked by record low turnout of 49 percent, possibly reflecting fatalism among Macron’s opponents in the face of his seemingly unstoppable advance, experts said.
The right-wing Republicans — who had hoped to rebound from their humiliation in the presidential vote — were shown trailing in second with a predicted 70-130 seats while Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front (FN) was forecast to garner between one and 10 seats.
It was another poor night for Marine Le Pen. The FN’s result showed the party is struggling to rebound from Le Pen’s bruising defeat by Macron in the presidential run-off.
The FN’s deputy leader Florian Philippot admitted to “disappointment” and called on voters to “mobilise massively” for the second round.
The worst losses, however, were for the Socialists of Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande, who are predicted to lose a staggering 200 seats.
The party’s chief Jean-Christophe Cambadelis and its failed presidential candidate Benoit Hamon both lost their seats.
Conceding that the party was facing “unprecedented” losses, Cambadelis appealed to voters to rally behind Macron’s rivals to avoid the president monopolising power.
Parliament risked having “no real oversight powers and no democratic debate worth speaking of,” he warned.
Former Republicans party leader Jean-Francois Cope said the results were “a disaster”.
“It’s the continuation of the real disaster that the presidential election was… we need to rebuild everything,” he told BFMTV.
The estimates showed Macron’s one-year-old REM and MoDem winning between 32 and 33 percent in the first round, ahead of the Republicans on 21-21.5 percent and the FN on 13-14 percent.
Few MPs were elected outright on Sunday.
*Reuters and AFP