French Parliamentary Elections: Macron’s Band of Amateurs Could Reshape France’s Political Landscape

A ballot unlike any other: On Sunday, France will hold the first round of its parliamentary elections but France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, only set up his En Marche party 14 months ago and is relying on political ingenues to bolster his campaign.

To gain a governing majority, Macron needs to win 289 of the 577 seats in France’s National Assembly. To achieve this goal, he has put forward 526 candidates, of whom 266 are women, the BBC reports. Among the candidates are a retired bullfighter, a fighter pilot, a mathematical genius and a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. Just under half, 219, are newcomers to politics while the average age of the candidates is under 50.

After his shock election win against far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen on May 7, many doubted that Macron could even field enough candidates to get a parliamentary majority. Recent polls, however, suggest that he could be on track to win 30 percent of the vote, giving him at least 330 seats. Some surveys place this figure as closer to 400.

Since assuming office, Macron has impressed the French public by standing firm against U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. On May 28, he told the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche : “Donald Trump, the Turkish president or the Russian president see relationships in terms of a balance of power. That doesn’t bother me. I don’t believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogs I won’t let anything pass.”

At a NATO summit last month, he also impressed with his closeness toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Despite being a political newcomer, Macron showed an instant affinity with the two leaders, widely considered beacons of western liberalism.

Macron’s approach to geopolitics is not the only reason why his party might perform well.  Many French voters are desperate to move away from traditional party politics, the New York Times notes, as evidenced by the high number of votes cast for Macron and Le Pen, compared to those for the established Socialist and Republican parties.

En Marche’s decision to field candidates with minimal political experience, the paper says, is not a disadvantage. Many French voters feel an affinity with these candidates’ desires to affect change and move away from political orthodoxy.

If the polls are correct, Macron and En Marche will radically reshape French politics and end the dominance of the Socialist and Republican parties. But the way ahead is far from assured: Leaked drafts of Macron’s planned labor reforms have already angered France’s trade unions and are likely to prove controversial among his left-wing supporters.