France′s Emmanuel Macron holds reins of a reform parliament | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.06.2017

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France's Emmanuel Macron holds reins of a reform parliament

Never before in France's history has there been such radical yet democratic change in the political elite as the landslide election victory of En Marche. President Emmanuel Macron’s movement now controls parliament.

Many former French political elites are now likely in search of a job. The second round of parliamentary elections means it's all change at the heart of France's political machine - more comprehensively than ever before in the country's democratic history. When the new MPs take their seats for the first time in the National Assembly, three-quarters will be doing so as complete newcomers.

Optically, things will also be very different in parliament after the victory of President Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche (Republic on the Move) movement. The percentage of women has climbed from 27 to 39 percent, although the key government functions remain firmly in male hands.

Frankreich Parlamentswahlen 2. Runde Wahllokal

Many En Marche candidates were running for office for the first time

More than a political generational change

The governing parties have a comfortable majority, with some 60 percent of the seats, meaning they will be able steam ahead with implementing Macron's agenda of reform. Many of the En Marche MPs come from civil society, chosen out of thousands of applications that poured in following a call online. But together, they have little political experience.

"One thing we can say for sure: they are all pro-European, and have a favorable view of the measures that Macron has proposed," said Nino Galetti, head of the German conservative Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Paris.

What's also clear is that the newcomers will need some time in order to learn the business of politics. To help, En Marche is offering a three-day course on parliament and the functions of the National Assembly, as well as helping MPs to find support staff.

Reform mandate?

Frankreich Parlamentswahlen Emmanuel Macron

Macron's En Marche won a majority in parliament

Opposition to Macron's reforms will mainly come from outside parliament. The radical CGT union launched a week of activism just one day after the vote. It rejects reforms to the labor market that are at the heart of Macron's plans to modernize France. A lot depends on how well the government manages to bring its critics on board over the coming weeks. Galetti, for one, is convinced that the government has a strong mandate for reform. Contrary to some predictions before the second round of voting, the opposition parties in the National Assembly are strong enough to form an effective opposition.

The conservative Les Republicains may now have almost half the seats they had before, but with 137 MPs, they are still a force to be reckoned with. Over the next few weeks, though, they are likely to be licking their wounds. With Edouard Philippe and Bruno Le Maire taking over the posts of prime minister and economy minister respectively, they've lost two of their heavyweights to the Macron government.

"There is a danger that Les Republicains will not exist in this form much longer, but could instead split into a more liberal faction closer to the president and the government, and a faction that would rather provide a more robust opposition," said Galetti.

Frankreich Marseille nationaler Streik Demonstration

France's previous government clashed with labor unions over implementing reforms

Historic debacle for the Socialists

With a party history stretching back more than 100 years, the Socialists are part of the political fabric of the French Republic. But after the latest presidential and parliamentary elections, they've been practically decimated. The party will be represented in the National Assembly by only 29 MPs. Almost all the ministers under former President Francois Hollande were punished at the polls, with voters electing to toss the party's political elite out of parliament. Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls was able to scrape through as an independent with a thin lead of 139 votes.

It's still unclear who will take over leadership of the Socialists after the resignation of party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis.

Frankreichs neuer Ministerpräsident Edouard Philippe

France's new prime minister comes from conservative ranks

The political extremists

Jean-Luc Melenchon, a former Socialist party dissident who left to form his own political movement, could benefit from the party's current crisis. His group, La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) now has strong enough representation to form a parliamentary group. As he attempts to oppose Macron and his government on the political stage, he will be joined by the extremists in parliament. They include far-right National France leader Marine Le Pen, who has won a seat in the National Assembly for the first time, despite being soundly defeated in the presidential vote.

Of the old political guard, several veterans can be expected to write their memoirs, presenting their views of a political year that no one could have predicted. Long-serving MPs need not fear joblessness: While the average French worker can retire after paying contributions for 40 years, parliamentarians need only to have worked for 30 years to retire with full benefits.

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