French Parliamentary Elections Send Message of Diversity, Inclusiveness to the World
“Liberté, égalité, féminité.”
When France took to the polls on May 7, 2017, the eyes of the world were on them. They elected Emmanuel Macron, a young, centrist candidate with limited political experience and a global, pro-European Union vision.
But for Macron, the task of governing effectively hinged on assembling a majority of seats in the French parliament. Without a parliamentary majority, Macron would struggle to pass any of his proposed policies.
On Sunday, French voters again went to the polls to vote in that country’s legislative elections, and doubled down on Macron’s vision. Furthermore, they elected a Parliament that’s more in-touch with a changing, increasingly diverse France: it’s 50% women, 6.5% Arab, and considerably gayer than before.
Macron’s party, La Republique En Marche!, won 308 of 577 parliamentary seats. Combined with the Mouvement Démocrate, a centrist party, Macron’s coalition formed a bloc of 350 legislators, well above the number needed to control the parliament: 289.
Perhaps more importantly, the new governing coalition is more representative of a France that’s increasingly diverse.
While voter turnout was lower than it’s been in previous years, perhaps revealing electoral malaise following seven months of intense political campaigning, the voters who did show up at the polls ushered in a wave of fresh faces.
Of the 577 newly elected to parliament, nearly half (or 223) were women. In 2012, by comparison, only 155 of the 577 seats were held by women.
Among these women were Khattabi Fadila, a French woman of Arab descent who was elected in one of France’s more conservative regions; Typhanie Degois, a 24-year-old lawyer who just finished graduate school; and Brune Poirson, a 34-year-old political novice who beat out far-right National Front candidate by 421 votes in her district.
Along with its increase in women legislators, Macron’s parliament is also, on average, five years younger than former president Francois Hollande’s, and a vast majority (424 of 577) of the parliament has never served in the legislative body before.
Macron, for his part, has an ambitious policy platform that includes a massive increase in funding for renewable energy initiatives, a campaign to reduce food waste in school cafeterias and office building cantines, and a health care plan that will send 40,000 medical students to schools and workplaces to provide preventative care.
With a parliamentary majority, he just may be able to make some of these visions a reality.