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It follows another brutal loss in the United Kingdom.
Emmanuel Macron’s party won a large parliamentary majority in the French elections on Sunday, an expected yet historic victory for a party created just one year ago. But the election results aren’t just important for France; they also underscore the recent losses of far-right parties across Europe.
En Marche — also known as La République En Marche! (LREM) or in English, Republic on the Move — received 308 of 577 total seats in France’s National Assembly, with 43 percent of the vote. Along with its centrist MoDem ally, En Marche will control a commanding 350 seats in the French parliament’s lower house.
“This Sunday, you gave a clear majority to the president of the republic and to the government,” said French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. “It will have a mission: to act for France. By their vote, the French, in their great majority, preferred hope to anger, confidence to withdrawal.”
But the election wasn’t just a victory for centrist politics; it was also a serious blow to France’s populist far-right. Just one month ago, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen was making a bid for the presidency — which she then lost by a 30-point margin. And in Sunday’s election, the party known for its anti-immigrant and Euroskeptic views won just eight seats, despite hoping to receive 15 in order to form its own parliamentary group.
The loss has led to infighting between senior National Front officials. Le Pen, who resigned as head of the party in April, told reporters that the party is now discussing a phase of “overhauling.”
The defeat of National Front is the latest in a series of failures for far-right parties that, at the end of 2016, felt like their time had come, inspired by victories in the United Kingdom (Brexit) and the United States (the election of Donald Trump). Now, they are struggling to hold onto the influence they enjoyed just a few months ago.
Earlier this month, progressives in the United Kingdom saw a huge victory when the Labour party gained 31 seats in a snap election, costing the Conservatives their clear majority in parliament. And the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), a Euroskeptic far-right party that championed Brexit, received just 2 percent of the vote in the election, a serious loss compared to the 12.6 percent the party received in 2015, when it gained one seat in parliament. The loss in the snap election followed a staggering defeat in local elections a month earlier, when UKIP lost 145 seats across the country and was left with a single councillor. After that election, former UKIP leadership contender Steven Woolfe said the party was “at an end,” and former UKIP MP Douglas Carswell said the party was “finished.”
Nigel Farage, the xenophobic gadfly most closely associated with the party, resigned as the head of UKIP after the Brexit referendum last year. His replacement, Paul Nutall, resigned earlier this month, after the party’s loss in the general election. “UKIP requires a new focus and new ideas,” Nutall said. Like National Front, the party is reportedly beset by infighting.
The far-right failure’s are seen elsewhere across Europe as well. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, known for his strong anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and Euroskeptic views, lost by a significant margin in the general election in March. And in Germany, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), known for its anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic views, has been facing setbacks. In February, the party fell in polls, with just 8.5 percent of respondents saying they would vote for the party if elections were held that week, the party’s worst poll numbers since December 2015. In Austria, the far-right suffered at the polls in the presidential election last December.
Of course, it’s not all good news. Voter turnout in the French election on Sunday was at 42.64 percent, a record low, and the far-right has in many ways shifted mainstream political discourse. But for now, these losses are a serious judgment on the future of ultra-nationalist, far-right parties in Europe.
A crushing blow in the French elections is the latest setback for Europe’s far right was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
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En Marche could soon hold the largest National Assembly majority in modern French history.
A party created only a year ago is on its way to controlling two-thirds of France’s National Assembly in addition to the presidency.
La Republique En Marche! (LREM, or En Marche), the party of French President Emmanuel Macron, won 32.32 percent of the vote in France’s first round of parliamentary elections Sunday. The win means that the party is all but guaranteed a supermajority in the National Assembly, France’s powerful lower house. If numbers hold in the second round of elections on June 18, En Marche could have the largest National Assembly majority in modern French history.
En Marche’s victory is good news for Macron’s pro-Europe brand of globalist politics. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, another globalist who has made an ally of Macron, quickly congratulated her French counterpart following the news. “My heartfelt congratulations to Emmanuel Macron [for] the great success of his party in the first election round,” Merkel said, according to Deutsche Welle. “Strong vote for reforms.”
Merkel wasn’t the only German to congratulate Macron. Martin Schulz, leader of the rival Social Democrats Party, also tweeted his support. “To reform Europe, he needs a majority,” Schulz wrote.
Je suis heureux pour @EmmanuelMacron. Pour réformer l’Europe, il a besoin d’une majorité – et aussi d’un nouveau gouvernement en Allemagne.
En Marche’s victory is a good sign for globalists, and a bad sign for France’s once-entrenched political establishment, which was already reeling from a presidential election that shattered political norms. Only a few weeks ago, the mainstream conservative Les Républicains were eyeing a victory at the polls. On Sunday, the party trailed En Marche, ultimately garnering 21.56 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, the once-mighty Socialist party of outgoing President François Hollande took barely 9.51 percent of the final tally, further cementing the party’s fall from grace.
En Marche’s victory is confusing for many on both sides of the political divide. Macron, a former banker mistrusted by anticapitalists and Euroskeptics alike, briefly served in Hollande’s government before leaving in 2016 to found En Marche. A new face in a country very used to the same parties, Macron has seen something of a reversal in fortunes recently. Going into the presidential election, Macron was a long-shot candidate, aided greatly by the scandals plaguing the center-right François Fillon and the controversies surrounding the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, whose brand of deeply xenophobic and nationalistic politics ultimately cost her at the polls. Arguably, voters seemed more determined to vote against Le Pen than for Macron, and many experts were skeptical about En Marche’s long-term chances for success.
But Sunday’s vote was an indicator that things may have changed. A number of factors could be the cause — Macron’s willingness to meet U.S. President Donald Trump face-on, along with his commitment to upholding the Paris climate agreement in the face of a U.S. exit, indicate he’s a more lively politician than many anticipated. More so than anything, however, French voters appear eager for change, even in an untried and untested form.
Also unconventional are many of the party’s members, as the New York Times noted prior to the election. Rwandan genocide survivor Hervé Berville, who is only 27 years old, joined En Marche just last month, part of a wave of new faces. In a country where less than three percent of the legislature are minorities, many of Macron’s party members are. Fifty percent are also women, more than half have never held office, and some are even younger than Berville.
“We were very sensitive to choosing candidates who reflected French society,” Jean-Paul Delevoye, the politician who led Macron’s selection committee, told the Times.
Reflecting French society seems to be going well for En Marche. France is home to around 4.7 million Muslims, many of whom trace their roots to North Africa, a region once colonized by France. Not many hold political office, but En Marche looks ready to challenge that. On Sunday, Mounir Mahjoubi, the 33-year-old son of Moroccan immigrants who became Macron’s digital affairs minister in May, unseated Socialist party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, who has held the same Paris district for 20 years.
“What I was sure of when I was younger is that I wanted to spend part of my life to be useful to others,” Mahjoubi told NPR. “What better spot to be useful to others than being a member of parliament.”
His colleagues also seem grateful to the party. “That they took me, it’s really a very strong symbol,” Berville said. “It’s a symbol of renewal. The citizens are waiting. They need to be heard.”
But it isn’t all roses for En Marche. Continuing the presidential election’s pitiful turnout trend, Sunday’s vote saw the worst voter turnout in France’s history. Only 48.7 percent of French voters cast ballots, down from 57.2 percent in 2012. Macron’s opponents quickly jumped on the downward trend — Le Pen, who came in second to Macron during the presidential election, called the results “catastrophic,” while the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, another former presidential candidate, pointed to the numbers as a sign that “there is no majority in this country.”
Low turnout aside, En Marche will now move on to a second round of elections, held on June 18. En Marche is poised to win between 390 and 430 seats out of the 577 available.
A new kind of anti-establishment politics roars to victory in France was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.