French president tries to calm Qatar tensions, boost profile

Gladys Abbott
June 12, 2017

Projections by three pollsters of LREM's tally after the second round ranged from 390 to 445 of the assembly's 577 seats - potentially the biggest majority since president Charles De Gaulle's conservatives won more than 80 percent of seats in 1968.

Mr Macron's prime minister, Edouard Philippe, confidently declared on Sunday night that the second round vote would give the assembly a "new face".

The far-left party of Jean-Luc Melenchon had 11 percent while the Socialists, who dominated the last National Assembly, had just 7 percent. Le Pen complained that the legislative voting system didn't fully represent voters' wishes - because her party got about 14 percent of votes but wasn't able to greatly improve on the two legislators it had in the last legislature.

The Socialist Party of the deeply unpopular former President Francois Hollande was shredded in the first round, with its leader, Jean-Christophe Cambadelis eliminated along with Benoit Hamon, the party's presidential candidate. To achieve that, a candidate would need more than half of the votes and that must account for at least a quarter of registered voters.

Another Henin-Beaumont resident, David Queneutte, blamed voter fatigue with politicians.

Macron, the youngest leader since Napoleon, has to make good on campaign pledges to revive France's fortunes by cleaning up politics and easing regulations that investors say hobble the euro zone's second-biggest economy.

The Government needs a new National Assembly in place to vote on the bills. They'll have between 20 and 30 seats, down from 331 as many of their voters and indeed lawmakers rallied to Macron, Ipsos projected. Le Pen, who had Europe on edge until she lost the May 7 presidential race, was trying to save herself and her party in the legislative contests.

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.

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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.

They also blamed the long election cycle, with party primaries that started a year ago before the two rounds of presidential and then legislative voting, for turning voters off.

Macron's party has largely avoided controversy but one of his ministers who is running for re-election in Brittany, Richard Ferrand, is being probed over a property deal involving his girlfriend.

The turnout rate was 41 per cent by late afternoon, according to the Interior Ministry.

Macron, who had never held elected office before becoming president, will also have succeeded in ushering in a younger and more diverse parliament with more women and ethnic minorities. If not, all candidates who earn at least 12.5 percent of vote will go into the second round June 18, where the victor takes the seat.

The 39-year-old leader's Republic on the Move! has fielded many candidates with no political experience against members from the Republican and socialist movements in its first run at a ballot.

Polls suggest the elections will strongly favor Macron's party and dramatically shake up French politics, punishing the traditional left and right parties and leaving no single strong opposition force.

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