Questions and answers: What you need to know about the French general election – Politics

The French National Assembly will be elected in June. Photo: Thibault Camus/AP/dpa

As soon as France elects its president, it is time for the next vote. Some things are different in parliamentary elections than in Germany. Explanations to keep the overview.

PARIS – The French will go to the polls on Sunday to elect the National Assembly. Unlike federal elections, there are only direct mandates and prolonged elections. Parliament works differently, too. This is how voting works in the neighboring country.

What is the role of the National Assembly?

The National Assembly is the center of central power in the French Parliament. The 577 members of Parliament are directly elected for five-year terms and vote on laws. There is also a second chamber of Parliament, the Senate, which, however, plays a less important role and is elected at a different time. For if the two Houses do not agree, the government can give the last word to the National Assembly. The Senate is currently conservative. So far, the Center Alliance led by President Emmanuel Macron has won a majority in the National Assembly.

What is the significance of Macron’s victory?

For the president, a majority in the National Assembly is not just important for passing laws. The House of Commons can also overthrow the government by a vote of no-confidence. If a camp other than Macron’s gets an absolute majority, it will in effect have to appoint another head of government. However, such a scenario is considered unlikely at the moment. If Macron loses an absolute majority in the House of Representatives, he and the government will have to seek opposition support for their plans. It will weaken his position.

How are the elections?

Representatives are elected directly by the people via a first-come-first-served system. Whoever gets more than half of the votes in his constituency gets a seat in the House of Representatives, provided that it equals at least one-fourth of the voters registered there. But only a few are able to do that.

Most seats in the run-off will be allocated a week later. Anyone who receives at least 12.5 percent of the registered vote goes to this final round. However, since voter turnout in parliamentary elections is often low, this is also an obstacle for many candidates. In any case, the first two places are ahead. In the second round, the person with the most votes wins.

Elections are traditionally held a few weeks after a presidential election. Many in France see it as a confirmation of the previous result. As a result, the winners’ supporters participate more than the losing candidates.

Why is there no correct result on Sunday evening?

Elections are initially determined at the district level. There is no national result like the second vote in Germany. However, institutions add up the direct votes cast for parties and coalitions nationwide, and thus bring in percent results. However, since hardly any seats are allocated in the first round and the situation changes again in the second round, it is difficult to conclude from this outcome which party will win a seat and where.

How does the electoral system affect the distribution of seats?

The first-come-first-served system makes it difficult for small parties to vote in parliamentary elections. Because they often don’t make it to the second round. Because in the end only the votes of the winner in the electoral district determine the distribution of seats, many in France complain that the parliament is not very representative. In 2017, for example, Marine Le Pen’s right-wing nationalists received 13.2 percent of the vote in the first round, but ultimately won only eight of the 577 seats, which equates to about 1.4 percent.

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