French President Emmanuel Macron prepares to cast his ballot in the resort town of Le Touquet. (AP: Christophe Archambault)
Voters have turned out in record low numbers in the second round of France’s parliamentary election, with President Emmanuel Macron expected to win a landslide majority to help push through far-reaching pro-business reforms.
- Pollsters predict Emmanuel Macron’s party to win up to 80 per cent of seats
- French President on track to win biggest majority since 1968
- Mr Macron’s Republic on the Move party is only one year old
The vote comes just a month after the 39-year-old former banker became the youngest head of state in modern French history, promising to clean up French politics and revive the eurozone’s second-biggest economy.
Mr Macron’s centrist Republic on the Move party is little more than a year old, yet pollsters project it will win as many as 75 to 80 per cent of the 577 seats in the lower house together with its centre-right MoDem ally.
However, turnout was on course for a record low, a sign of voter fatigue after seven months of campaigning and voting — and also of disillusionment and anger with politics that could eventually complicate Mr Macron’s reform drive.
Interior Ministry data showed turnout was 35.33 per cent at 5:00pm (local time), 10 points lower than at the same time in 2012.
Three pollsters projected turnout to be at 42-43 per cent at the close of polling, a record low in the post-war Fifth Republic.
“People know it’s already a done deal,” Alex Mpoy, a 38-year-old security guard, said, echoing the apathy of many voters who did not intend to vote.
Mr Macron cast his vote early in the morning in the seaside resort of Le Touquet before flying to a ceremony outside Paris to mark the anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s 1940 appeal for French resistance to Nazi occupation.
Polls before the vote showed Mr Macron on course to win the biggest parliamentary majority since de Gaulle’s own conservatives in 1968.
Trade unions issue warning to Macron
Many of Mr Macron’s MPs will be political novices, something which will change the face of parliament at the expense of the conservative and socialist parties which have ruled France for decades.
Mr Macron will need to keep the diverse and politically raw group of politicians united behind him as he sets out to overhaul the labour code, cut tens of thousands of public-sector jobs and overhaul an unwieldy pension system.
Trade unions have said Mr Macron must listen to their demands and not use his majority to bulldoze policy reforms through, or else face unrest.
“There has never been such a paradox between a high concentration of power and strong tensions and expectations in terms of changes,” Laurent Berger, head of France’s CFDT union, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.
“There is no place for euphoria in victory. There is no providential man, no miracle solution.”
Mr Macron’s rivals have urged voters not to stay at home, warning power could be too concentrated in the hands of one party and democratic debate stifled.
“We need other parties to have some weight,” 54-year-old assembly line worker Veronique Franqueville said.
“If he wins it all there will be no debate.”
If Mr Macron wins the size of majority forecast, it means he will enjoy an absolute majority even without the support of alliance partner Francois Bayrou and his MoDem party.
That would lend him a freer hand for reforms and to reshuffle the government if he chose to do so.