FRENCH voters went to the polls yesterday in a parliamentary election set to hand a landslide victory to the centrist party of President Emmanuel Macron which would complete his stunning reset of national politics.
The new assembly is due to be transformed with a new generation of lawmakers — younger, more female and more ethnically diverse — winning seats in the afterglow of Macron’s success in last month’s presidential election.
The scale of the change is forecast to be so large that some observers have compared the overhaul to 1958, the start of the present presidential system, or even the post-war rebirth of French democracy in 1945.
It is also entirely unexpected: Macron was unknown three years ago and initially given little chance of emerging as president, but he and his 15-month-old Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move) party have tapped into widespread desire for change.
And yet despite the zest for renewal the vote has failed to generate much excitement.
Official statistics showed turnout at midday down more than 3 points over the last election in 2012 at 17.75 percent, revealing a degree of election fatigue.
REM and its allies are forecast to win 400-470 seats in the 577-strong parliament, one of the biggest post-war majorities that would give the pro-EU Macron a free hand to implement his business-friendly program.
Sunday’s voting is the decisive second round of the election after a first round last weekend that was topped by REM and which was also marked by low turnout.
If confirmed, REM’s crushing win will come at the expense of France’s traditional parties, the right-wing Republicans and Socialists, but also the far-right National Front which faces major disappointment.
The Socialists are set to be the biggest victim of voters’ desire to reject establishment figures associated with years of high unemployment, social unrest and lost national confidence. Pollsters predict the party will lose well over 200 seats after its five years in power under former President Francois Hollande.