PARIS, France - After French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La Republique en Marche captured a decisive majority in the elections for the National Assembly - France’s lower and more powerful legislative chamber, on Sunday, Europe is watching the first steps the young French leader takes after clinching ultimate power.
On Sunday, defying skeptics, Macron and his party claimed one of the biggest legislative landslides in modern French history. Early forecasts projected La République en Marche winning 361 out of 577 seats.
The previous record for the most number of seats secured was set in 2002, when Jacques Chirac’s Union for a Popular Movement party won 365 seats.
Macron's centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party and its center-right Modem ally won 350 seats out of 577 in the lower house and reports noted that the results showed that the vote saw a record low turnout for a parliamentary poll in the postwar Fifth Republic.
Mainstream Socialists and Republicans fared dismally in the election however, and the parties of the extreme left and extreme right received far fewer votes than they did in the first round of the presidential election on April 23.
According to Government spokesman Christophe Castaner, the high abstention rate - more than 50 percent of voters stayed at home, was a failure for the political class and highlighted the need to change politics in France.
Castaner told RTL radio, "The real victory wasn't last night, it will be in five years time when we have really changed things.”
The victory has come at the end of a remarkable first month for the new French president, which has included famous white-knuckle handshake with U.S. President Donald Trump, and a meeting at Versailles with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during which Macron openly criticised Russian state media outlets Sputnik and Russia Today for being “agents of influence,” and accused them of interfering in this year’s French presidential election.
Now, with a solid parliamentary majority behind him, Macron is now set to shift his attention to implementing his economic reform agenda, reviving the Franco-German relationship, and convincing German leaders to pursue deeper integration in the eurozone.
Amongst the problems facing the French economy are unemployment that remains stubbornly high, at nearly 10 percent.
Among young workers, it’s nearly 25 percent.
France is also facing slow growth, high levels of public spending, chronic budget deficits, and rising public debt.
Macron has vowed to make French firms more competitive in the global marketplace and wants to allow businesses to hire and fire more easily, give companies more flexibility and latitude over wages and working hours, trim France’s bloated civil service sector, lower corporate taxes, reduce some pensions, cut public spending, and relax safeguards on the 35-hour working week.
Delivering at home is the first step for Macron or German leaders will not take his reform proposals for the eurozone seriously.
If he succeeds, he can also rejuvenate the Franco-German relationship - which forms the core of a strong Europe - especially in the time of Brexit, Trump and the problems in Hungary, Poland and other parts of Europe.
This year, Macron’s toughest political test would be to convince French voters that his policies will benefit them and it will show the degree to which French citizens have embraced him and his ideas.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, reiterating his "total" determination to work on major reforms in the coming months said after Sunday’s vote, “Through their vote, a wide majority of the French have chosen hope over anger.”
Meanwhile, on Monday, President Emmanuel Macron's government promised to renew politics in France.
Macron, who had never before held elected office, became France's youngest leader since Napoleon earlier this year.