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France’s New President Fields Eclectic Candidates for Parliament


President-elect Emmanuel Macron, attends a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the abolition of slavery May 10, 2017 in Paris.

A woman who used to be a bullfighter, a video game tycoon, and a mathematics genius are some of the candidates France’s president-elect Emmanuel Macron hopes can help him win a majority in the National Assembly in next month’s parliamentary elections.

The pro-business, pro-Europe centrist rode to power on a promise to bring change to France and to revive the flagging economy. However, he needs a majority in order to push through tough reforms.

Nevertheless, he will be, at least at first, a president without a party. His En Marche! (Onward!) movement was set up last year with the sole aim of getting him elected to the Elysée Palace. Now that that is done, he needs the movement to become a political party, and one that can challenge the traditional parties, in disarray since the presidential polls, and woo some of their supporters.

Richard Ferrand, the secretary-general of Macron's Republic on the Move, attends a press conference for the upcoming National Assembly elections, at the party headquarters in Paris, May 11, 2017.
Richard Ferrand, the secretary-general of Macron's Republic on the Move, attends a press conference for the upcoming National Assembly elections, at the party headquarters in Paris, May 11, 2017.

One month before vote

Macron will have one month as president in which to persuade the French electorate to continue to shun the traditional left- and right-wing parties in the June elections. The movement is still working to find candidates. So far, they have come up with 428 names for 577 seats in the French National Assembly.

More than half of them have never held elected office, and only 5 percent are outgoing members of parliament.

True to his promise for parity, slightly more than half are women. They include Marion Buchet, a French air force fighter pilot who served in Syria; and former bullfighter Marie Sara, who will stand in the Gard, in the south of France, against the National Front heavyweight, Gilbert Collard. Sara was once married to tennis star Henri Leconte.

The youngest candidate for the renamed La République en Marche (LRM) is 24 years old, the oldest is 72. The average age is 46 — that is older than the president-elect, who is 39.

Many candidates are unknowns

Among the few better-known names is Eric Halphen, the judge who investigated former president Jacques Chirac for corruption.

However, most are unknowns. Political analyst Jean-Yves Camus said that fielding a team of newcomers was not the best recipe for success for Macron.

“If he only appeals to the startuppers, the young, educated people, the winners of globalization, those in the professions, and so on, he will not remain for five years,” Camus warned.

The LRM received more than 19,000 offers to run as candidates. With his interim government still to be officially designated, though, Macron received few offers from outgoing members of parliament.

One high-profile offer was from former Prime Minister Manuel Valls. He quit the government last December to run for president, but failed to secure the nomination in the left-wing primary led by his Socialist Party (PS). He is currently facing disciplinary action by the party because he broke ranks and called on PS voters to support Macron.

Ironically, that is the main reason LRM declined his offer. Richard Ferrand, LRM general secretary, announced that the movement would not run a candidate against Valls.

“Our desire is to bring as many people as possible together, so we don’t want to humiliate, reject, or be vindictive,” he said.

Interim government crucial

Macron’s choice of government to lead the country until elections June 11 and June 18 will be decisive for his future. He needs that government, to be announced next week, to be inclusive enough to show he is keeping his promise to heal divisions, while also giving him the numbers needed to pass his planned reforms.

Many of those who voted for Macron in the presidential run-off did so with a heavy heart, voting not so much for him as against far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Many of those voters, and the 1 in 4 who abstained, have promised to give the new president a rough ride at the parliamentary elections.

That could leave him in the uncomfortable position, however, of what the French call a cohabitation — where he will be forced to try to work with a National Assembly that is determined to counter his plans.

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