French President Emmanuel Macron's new centrist party appears on its way to a strong majority in the powerful lower house of Parliament, the National Assembly, after winning 32.3 percent of the vote in the first round of national legislative elections on Sunday. Macron's party, Le Republique en Marche, and its allied MoDem party together are projected to win up to 445 of the 557 seats in the National Assembly; 298 seats would be a majority. The center-right Republican Party came in second place, with just under 16 percent; the far-right National Front took 13.2 percent; the far-left France Unbowed grabbed 11 percent of the vote; and the outgoing ruling Socialist Party won just 7.4 percent.
"France is back," said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe after the vote. Socialist leader Jean-Christophe Cambadélis lost his seat in the first round. The second round of voting is next Sunday, June 18.
Macron, 39, founded his En Marche party just 14 months ago, and he was undoubtedly aided by luck. "But he has also foreseen with uncanny clarity how — with the right moves at the right places at the right times — the map of French politics was waiting to be redrawn," says BBC News correspondent Hugh Schofield. "If the projections from the first round are sustained, then the change that is about to happen to the National Assembly is as big as the one that occurred in 1958 when Charles de Gaulle brought in the Fifth Republic," but enacting actual reform with his slate of novice legislators "is the next challenge. And bigger."