• French Legislative Elections 2017: First Round Analysis  [PDF]
  • By Matthew Elliott and Claudia Chwalisz
  • June 2017
  • Published by the Legatum Institute

Having written about the March 2017 Dutch election for the Legatum Institute, Matthew Elliott has now turned his attention to the French Presidential and National Assembly elections. He focuses particularly on the rise of populism - across the political spectrum in France - and examines the parallels with Brexit in the UK.

Key points

  • Turnout for legislative elections reached a record low on Sunday at only 48%, much lower than the 58% turnout in 2012.
  • Only four seats were won outright by candidates who garnered over 50% of the vote – a large drop from 2012 when 36 candidates won after the first round alone.
  • Due to low turnout, there will only be one ‘triangulaire’ – a run-off between three candidates in the second round. This will take place in Aube, where Grégory Besson-Moreau (La République en Marche) came first with 29.86% of the vote. He will be against the incumbent Nicolas Dhuicq (Les Républicains, 25.68%) and the National Front’s Bruno Subtil (24.89%). In 2012, there were 46 ‘trinangulaires’, reduced to 34 after some candidates withdrew. In all other seats, it will be a two-person run-off. 
  • Emmanuel Macron’s party La République en Marche (LREM) put forth 461 candidates (and allied with centrist Modem’s 76 candidates). Between the two parties, they won two seats outright and the latest projections suggest that they will win between 415 to 455 seats on Sunday (Ipsos – Sopra Steria 11 June 2017).
  • The Republicans, who are allied with the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) fielded 480 and 148 candidates respectively. Only one UDI candidate won outright. While the party’s aim at the outset was to win a majority, projections suggest they will win only 70 to 110 seats – a fair drop from the 225 they won in 2012. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire is in a good position to win his seat, though former candidate in the presidential primaries Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet came second in her constituency.
  • The Socialists, who won 295 seats to form a majority in 2012, only fielded 414 candidates this time, the lowest number amongst the main parties. They garnered only 7% of the vote, with numerous big names eliminated, including presidential candidate Benoît Hamon and party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadélis. Manuel Valls came a close first, but will have a tight battle in the second round against the LREM candidate. The Socialists are predicted to win between 20 to 30 seats.
  • Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s movement ‘La France Insoumise’ was present in 556 constituencies. Despite the remarkable presidential election result, the far left party (including the Communist Party) won only 13.74%. Mélenchon looks to be in a comfortable position to win in Marseille. The parties are expected to win around 8 to 18 seats between them.
  • After winning its largest ever number of votes in the second round of the presidential election on 7 May, the National Front fielded 571 candidates, more than any other party. Its hopes were likely pinned on the 45 constituencies where Marine Le Pen won over 50% in the second round of the presidential race. However, the National Front only won 13.2% of the vote – 538,071 less votes than it did in the 2012 legislative elections. While Marine Le Pen looks like she will likely in Pas-de-Calais, her deputy Florian Philippot is less assured and the party is only projected to win one to five seats overall. 

Read the full report here.

Read a brief guide to the French election: Populism across the spectrum —left, right and centre here.