– Desire for change –
REM routed the Socialists and heavily defeated the rightwing Republicans, while the far-right National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen — whom Macron defeated in the presidential run-off on May 7 — had a disappointing night.
Le Pen entered parliament for the first time in her career in one of at least eight seats the FN won, but the party was set to fall well short of its 15-seat target.
Le Pen’s victory in the northern former coalmining town of Henin-Beaumont was a rare bright spot for her nationalist and anti-EU party that was once hoping to emerge as the principal opposition to Macron.
She insisted the FN still had a key role to play, saying: “We are the only force of resistance to the watering down of France, of its social model and its identity.”
The Socialists were the biggest losers, punished for the high unemployment, social unrest and lost national confidence that marked their five years in power.
The party of former president Francois Hollande shed around 200 seats, leaving them with between 44-46 seats.
“The rout of the Socialist Party is undeniable,” said PS leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, who lost his seat in the first round and resigned his position on Sunday night.
Former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls narrowly retained his seat after a dogfight with a hard-left candidate in the Paris suburbs who demanded a recount amid noisy protests.
But former education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem — a one-time Socialist star — was beaten by an REM candidate in the central city of Lyon, while former labour minister Myriam El Khomri lost to Macron-supporting candidate Pierre-Yves Bournazel in the capital.
The Republicans fared better than the Socialists, hanging on to between 126 and 136 seats, down from over 200 in the last parliament, and remain the main opposition party.
The conservative party had enough seats to “defend its convictions”, said the party’s leader for the elections, Francois Baroin, calling on Macron to heed the record low turnout, which he said sent “a message”.
“The task he faces is immense,” he added.
Winners and losers in French parliamentary vote
France’s parliament underwent a major transformation on Sunday, with President Emmanuel Macron’s winning centrist army, half of whom have never held office, wresting between 355 and 403 seats for the Republic on the Move party (REM) from the left and right.
These are some of the new — and not-so-new — faces in the 577-member National Assembly:
– Maths ace –
Cedric Villani, a 43-year-old star mathematician recognisable by his long hair and colourful floppy bow ties is one of scores of political newcomers who swept to power on Macron’s coattails. Winner of the 2010 Fields medal, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in mathematics, he was elected in the southern Paris suburb of Essonne.
– Start-up star –
The youngest member of Macron’s government, 33-year-old Mounir Mahjoubi, beat off Socialist Party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis and a hard-left candidate for a seat in the multi-ethnic 19th district of Paris. Born in France to Moroccan parents, he was made junior minister in charge of the digital economy after leading Macron’s online campaign during the presidential race.
– Marine Le Pen –
As a consolation prize for her defeat in the presidential election, the 48-year-old leader of the far-right National Front (FN) won a seat representing the northern region of Pas-de-Calais, an FN stronghold. A member of the European Parliament since 2004 this is the first time she will sit in the National Assembly, where she will be joined by at least five other FN members — up from a current total tally of two.
– Leftist firebrand –
Jean-Luc Melenchon, the fiery 65-year-old leader of the radical left France Unbowed will also join the opposition benches. Melenchon, an MEP and former senator who finished fourth in the presidential election, was elected in the Mediterranean port of Marseille. He has vowed a “merciless” battle against the government on workers’ rights.
– Socialist survivor –
Former prime minister Manuel Valls — reviled by left-wingers for having tacked to the right while in office — survived the purge of senior Socialists by the skin of his teeth, winning election in his suburban Paris fiefdom by a mere 139 votes. Valls had sought to run on Macron’s ticket. The 54-year-old was rebuffed but REM did not run a candidate against him, facilitating his win.
Meanwhile, some well-known faces were rejected by voters:
– Brains behind Le Pen
FN vice-president Florian Philippot — the architect of her pledge to take France out of the euro — was beaten by one of Macron’s candidates in eastern France. The 35-year-old is a controversial figure within the FN, blamed by some for pushing a virulently anti-EU line that scared off voters in the presidential election.
– Hollande loyalist –
A former rising star of the Socialist Party, ex-education minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, 39, was beaten by a Macron-backed entrepreneur in the southeastern city of Lyon.
– Former Sarkozy spokeswoman –
A former environment minister from the moderate faction of the right-wing Republicans, 44-year-old Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet was beaten by a Macron-backed business consultant on the Left Bank of Paris — a conservative bastion.