Macron draws heavily on novices for vital parliament polls

French President-elect Emmanuel Macron’s start-up party on Thursday announced a list of 428 candidates, most of them political unknowns, to fight parliamentary elections that will determine his chances of putting his program into action.

The list of candidates, many of them young and half of them women, represented Macron’s first stab at creating a parliamentary power base with his Republic on the Move party to help him push forward with reforms once in office.

But the party has yet to pick dozens of other candidates for the 577 seats at stake in the June elections, hoping more politicians from other parties will switch sides.

And a first sign of a trouble for Macron appeared when his centre-right ally Francois Bayrou signaled he wasn’t happy with the list of candidates, with an aide to Macron saying Bayrou thought he wasn’t getting a good enough deal.

Benjamin Griveaux, a spokesman for Macron, said he was confident this issue would be resolved on Friday. “It will be done in mutual understanding,” he said.

The centrist Macron, 39, formed his own party only last year, and his election victory over the National Front’s Marine Le Pen on Sunday has destroyed the dominance of the centre-left and centre-right parties which have governed France for nearly 60 years.

He now needs a parliamentary majority to press on with his plans to cut state spending, boost investment and create jobs to revitalise the French economy and place it at the heart of a modernized European Union.

“We want to build a majority for change and therefore obtain for Republic on the Move an absolute majority in the National Assembly,” said party secretary general Richard Ferrand, adding officials had combed through more than 19,000 applications.

The door was still open for more potential candidates to apply by next Wednesday, he said.

Macron officially takes power as president on Sunday.

He is building a party structure from the wreckage of the Socialists, whose candidate pooled only 6 percent of the presidential vote in the first round, and the moderate wing of the badly bruised conservative party, The Republicans, which drew 20 percent.

The list issued by Republic on the Move on Thursday included 24 outgoing Socialist lawmakers and no conservative ones.

Among the names were Gaspard Gantzer, communications adviser to outgoing President Francois Hollande, and former junior environment minister Barbara Pompili, an ex-Greens lawmaker.

Reflecting Macron’s enthusiasm for tapping into wider civil society, most candidates were completely unknown to journalists picking through the list. They included an ex-fighter pilot and a taekwondo blackbelt.

In a compromise with a political heavyweight who could prove a useful ally for Macron, the party said it would not put up a candidate against Socialist ex-prime minister Manuel Valls, a pro-business figure close to Macron on economic policy, although it also said Valls did not fit the criteria to be a Republic on the Move candidate.

Valls, who said earlier this week he wanted to help Macron achieve a majority, welcomed the move and said he would run as “a free man” backing him.

To qualify, would-be candidates, including total newcomers to politics, filled out extensive online applications with CVs and explanatory letters for pre-screening and follow-up interviews, according to local media interviews with some of them. The average age of those selected was 46.

Catherine Fabre, a business management lecturer at Bordeaux University, told BFM TV she was running because she wanted to shake things up in a National Assembly which was, in her words, dominated by too many middle-aged white men.

Macron’s victory was seen across the world as a victory for supporters of European Union integration over Le Pen’s anti-EU proposals, which included ditching the euro currency.

But he now needs to consolidate, knowing that many of those who voted for him were driven less by enthusiasm for him than by a desire to stop Le Pen.

A Harris Interactive opinion poll predicted Macron’s party would get, together with Bayrou’s centrist party, the largest share of the vote in the mid-June elections.

After Sunday’s handover, Macron will name an interim team to run day-to-day affairs pending the outcome of the voting, which takes place in two rounds on June 11 and 18. (Courtesy Reuters)