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France's new parliament - what's changed?
The victory of President Emmanuel Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) in France's parliamentary election has been hailed as a "revolution" in some quarters. But how much has actually changed in the parliament elected on Sunday 18 June?
- The majority: With 350 of the 577 seats, the president's party and its allies can pass whatever legislation they want, assuming there are no splits or defections in the course of the next five years. Better still, LREM does not even have to rely on the 42 votes of its electoral ally the Modem, whose leader, François Bayrou, has proved independent-minded or unpredictable, depending on which way you look at it. But that victory is tempered by a historically low turnout of 42.64 percent, leading opposition figures to challenge the government's mandate already. And the election result was not the record-beating landslide some opinion polls predicted, delivering fewer seats than the right's 365 under Jacques Chirac in 2002 and 484 in 1993.
- The parties: Two parties have never had any MPs before - LREM and Jean-Luc Mélenchon's France Unbowed - due to the fact that they have only just been created, although some of their members have previously represented other parties. The National Front has quadrupled its presence to eight and party leader Marine Le Pen has won a seat for the first time but, even with two potential allies, the far-right party will not be able to form a parliamentary group. The mainstream right Republicans have been reduced from 199 seats to 113 and their allies the UDI from 27 to 17, a disaster but not as bad as was feared, leaving them the largest opposition group. The Socialist Party suffered the greatest humiliation, losing 224 seats, not to mention control of the government. But, with 29 seats it can, at least, form a parliamentary group and has not been overtaken by France Unbowed. Mélenchon's hard-left movement has, however, won 17 seats and can form a parliamentary group with or without the Communist Party, who have 10. The two parties combined percentage was higher than the Socialists'.
- Gender balance: With 224 women MPs, this parliament will have the highest-ever female representation in French history. But, at 353, men are still the majority. The change is largely thanks to the two new parties, who strove for parity in selecting their candidates. LREM and Modem have finished with 47 percent women to 53 percent men, while seven of France Unbowed's 17 MPs are women. The Republicans and UDI have a mere 30 female MPs, preferring to pay fines for not achieving parity rather than stand more female candidates in winnable seats.
- Age: Again thanks to the two new parties, this will be the youngest-ever French parliament. For the first time the average age is below 50, at 48.7, and 146 MPs are under 40, up from 57 in the outgoing parliament. France Unbowed's parliamentary representation has the youngest average age with three MPs below 30. LREM-Modem have 28 MPs under 30. The youngest MP is the National Front's Ludovic Pajot, who is 23.
- Political experience: Another record - 429 MPs are new to the job. Only 25 percent of outgoing MPs have held on to their seats. Some of this is because of rules that MPs can no longer hold other major political posts, such as mayors, partly due to retirement and partly, again, due to the new parties. Some 59 percent of outgoing MPs who did stand lost their seats, 129 of them in the first round. Most of them lost to LREM, only 28 of whose candidates were sitting MPs, although a number were former city councillors or ministerial or parliamentary advisers. Although Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a veteran Euro-MP and former minister, the rest of his France Unbowed comrades are all new to parliament, although not to politics.
- Social class: This is where the revolution stops short. From the point of view of income, education and occupation, the parliament remains pretty much unchanged. Some 54 percent of MPs are either entrepreneurs, upper management in the private sector or members of the liberal professions. Blue-collar and clerical workers are a small minority, despite making up half the workforce. LREM boasted that it had drawn its candidates from "civil society", but, in terms of those elected, that definition included 60 private-sector managers, 28 entrepreneurs, 20 liberal professionals, 12 doctors, 26 top-level civil servants and 25 university professors and teachers. Its only blue-collar candidate failed to be elected.
- Policies: LREM as a party does not have any formally adopted policies, since its first national conference will not take place until mid-July. Macron's presidential manifesto and the government's declarations of intent do, however, give us an idea of their political orientation. A clean-government bill is being drawn up. Among its proposals are likely to be a ban on MPs employing family members, a limit on the number of terms to be served and attempts to control lobbying and limit MPs' income from consultancies. The government's other priorities are labour law reform, tax cuts for business and the wealthy and further integration of the European Union.