Record low turnout in French parliamentary first round elections hurt the performance of Marine Le Pen’s Front National last Sunday. Le Pen and her party were hoping to secure at least 15 seats in parliament, but Front National appears on track to win only between 1 and 10 seats. The party is saying it will be the only opposition in parliament after Emmanuel Macron’s new party, Republic on the Move, has attracted politicians from many of the other major parties. Gina Doggett and Zoe Leroy report for the AFP:
Le Pen blamed what she called a skewed electoral system that encouraged a record low turnout after projections showed that FN candidates scored between 13 and 14 percent of the vote.
She pointed to the fact that only around 49 percent of the electorate cast a ballot on Sunday — the lowest level in a parliamentary election in France for six decades.
“This catastrophic abstention rate should raise the question of the voting rules which keep millions of our compatriots away from the polling stations,” the 48-year-old said.
FN vice president Florian Philippot said the party had “maybe been disappointed by the score and we have paid the price, I think, for a low turnout.”
The lion’s share of the vote, as expected, went to the new centrist party of 39-year-old President Emmanuel Macron, Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM), which could win as many as 445 seats.
The FN had set the 15-seat goal in order to qualify as a parliamentary group, a status that gives a party more clout in the National Assembly with seats on committees and a role in setting the agenda.
– ‘We are real opposition’ –
The FN leader is currently a lawmaker in the European Parliament but is hoping to win a legislative seat in France for the first time.
She at least made it easily into the run-off in the northern town of Henin-Beaumont against 12 rivals and will fight a political novice from Macron’s party, Anne Roquet.
Lise Trolin, a 32-year-old saleswoman who was among around 200 FN party stalwarts who gathered to watch the results in the depressed former mining town, tried to put a brave face on the national result.
“It’s not a failure,” she told AFP. “We will be the only opposition force in the assembly because the Macron government is a melting pot of all the other parties. We will be the only force with enough guts to challenge Macron.”
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