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Macron meets leaders of Spain, Estonia and the Netherlands

18 Juin 2017

PARIS — French voters are casting ballots Sunday in the final round of parliamentary elections that could clinch President Emmanuel Macron's hold on power, as his fledgling party appears set to rout mainstream rivals and turn politics as usual on its head.

Macron's year-old Republic on the Move (REM) party and its allies are tipped to win a landslide in the run-off election for the 577-member lower house of parliament.

The party, along side its partner MoDem (a smaller, centrist, pro-European party) is now projected to win as many as 450 out of 577 seats in France's National Assembly, when voters return to vote in the second round that will take place on Sunday, after having won just over 32 per cent of the vote.

"Go and vote!" Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday.

However, contextualised with the Socialist party's 9.5 per cent of the vote, the message conveyed by the electorate is resonant enough ~ France has reaffirmed its faith in the centre road.

REM has fielded a mix of centrists and moderate left- and right-wingers drawn from France's established parties, as well as complete newcomers including a star mathematician and a former bullfighter.

"We've shot down everything that represented the system before and we're trying something else", said historian Didier Maus, who sits on France's Constitutional Council.

Many of Macron's lawmakers will be political novices, something which will change the face of parliament at the expense of the conservative and socialist parties that have ruled France for decades.

"The old notions of Left and Right have become less important in political debate than the kind of Social Liberal "Third Way" Macron is supporting, much like Tony Blair used to do with his New Labour", Jean-Yves Camus, a researcher with the think tank IRIS and an expert on the far right in France, told Sputnik.

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"This is France, not Russian Federation", far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon said Friday on Europe 1 radio.

The scale of the change is forecast to be so large that some observers have compared the overhaul to 1958, the start of the present presidential system, or even the post-war rebirth of French democracy in 1945.

Key battles on Sunday include far-right leader Marine Le Pen's attempt to win her first seat in parliament from the northeastern former coal mining town of Henin-Beaumont.

"There might be a correction", said Emmanuel Riviere from the Kantar Sofres polling group.

Melenchon said Friday that Macron lacked legitimacy.

The vote on Sunday will cap a presidential and parliamentary election sequence which started in November a year ago with a primary to pick the candidate of the right-wing Republicans party.

To win a seat outright in the first round of voting, candidates had to win more than half of the votes, which must account for at least a quarter of the registered voters.

"The stakes of the second round are clear", ex-prime minister and party grandee Alain Juppe said then, urging voters to get behind the opposition.