Rwanda-born Berville is MP as Macron marches to clear majority in French parliament
Paris, France | AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party swept to a large majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday, although it fell short of a predicted landslide.
Macron’s year-old Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) and their allies were set to win between 350 and 361 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, based on partial results after the second round of an election which has eliminated many high-profile figures.
The party Macron founded just 16 months ago has re-drawn the French political map, although the winning score was considerably lower than the 470 seats predicted by some pre-vote surveys.
But it gives the 39-year-old president one of France’s biggest post-war majorities, strengthening his hand in implementing his programme of business-friendly reforms.
“A year ago, no-one would have imagined such a political renewal,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
“It is down to the president’s desire to breathe new life into democracy and to the French people who wanted to give parliament a new face.”
Macron’s success was tempered by record low turnout of just under 44 percent, leading opposition leaders to claim he had no groundswell of support.
– More women lawmakers –
The new assembly is set to be transformed with younger, more ethnically diverse lawmakers and more than 200 women — far more than in the outgoing parliament.
Around half of REM’s candidates are virtual unknowns drawn from diverse fields of academia, business or local activism.
They include 27-year-old Rwandan orphan Herve Berville, who cruised to victory in the western region of Brittany, and female bullfighter Marie Sara, who came within 100 votes of unseating senior FN figure Gilbert Collard in southern France.
He embodies “the renewal” desired by Macron. A graduate of Science-Po Lille and the London School of Economics, he worked for the French Development Agency in Mozambique and then as a researcher at Stanford University in California. He was adopted at the age of four in 1994 by a French family in Cote d’Armor.
The other half of the party are a mix of centrists and moderate left- and right-wing politicians drawn from established parties including ally MoDem.
The hard-left France Unbowed was forecast to win around 15 seats as it also struggled to maintain the momentum it had during the presidential election.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, the movement’s firebrand leader, won a seat in the southern city of Marseille on a pledge to lead resistance to Macron’s radical labour market reforms.
Melenchon also honed in on the record low turnout, saying: “The French people are now engaged in a sort of civic general strike.”
Many observers suggested voters were weary of elections after four in the space of two months.
Apart from loosening labour laws to try to boost employment, Macron also plans to overhaul France’s social security system and wants to breathe new life into the European Union.
His confident start at home, where he has concentrated on trying to restore the lost prestige of the president, and his bold action on the international stage has led to a host of positive headlines.
He won instant plaudits from France’s closest ally Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman hailing his “clear parliamentary majority.”