The first and second rounds of France’s legislative elections were held on June 11th and 18th, 2017, respectively. The elections for the 577 seats in the French Parliament are held in a two-round, Winner Take-all Runoff system. This system fails to provide fair representation to French citizens as it tends to create “the most disproportional results of any Western democracy”, where the vote share of a party does not translate into an equivalent number of seats. The problem of disproportionate results is not unique to France, and understanding where the French system succeeds and fails can help us understand how both France and the United States could achieve fairer democracy and accurate representation.
The two-round system, Winner take-all runoff is used for both the legislative and presidential elections. The two-round system is identical to the plurality system except that if no winner attains the majority of votes (50%+1) in the initial election, a second "runoff" round of voting takes place between the two candidates who received the most votes in the initial round. Winner-take-all runoff consists of the principle that the candidate with the most votes wins; this fails to provide fair representation as some citizens will find their interests unrepresented.
In both the first and the second round of the legislative elections, France faced record-breaking low turnout of less than 50%. Political pundits speculate that this lack of participation is due to a combination of factors, including: a feeling of lack of fair representation, due to a belief that “En Marche!” would win no matter what, political fatigue due to a difficult political year in France and Europe, and an Americanization of French politics, where the presidential elections become the most important elections. Confirming one the French people’s fears, “En Marche!” turnout in the first round (28.2%) was predicted to yield a majority of deputies in Parliament. Indeed, in the second round, “En Marche!” received 43% of votes and yielded 308 deputies in the French Parliament. Other so-called “traditional” parties were shut out by French voters and received a much lower share of the votes. The Socialists received 5.7% and 29 seats and the Conservative “Républicains” received 22.2% and 113 seats.
“En Marche!” Towards the Future
Due to the historically low turnout and the distorted results, Macron’s party “En Marche!” has not received a stable mandate. Thus, he, along with his party, must find a way to collaborate across party lines to accomplish his policy goals and reform the French political system. The French people deserve a strong voice and confidence in their democracy. Proven reforms, such as multi-winner ranked choice voting, can help Macron deliver on these issues and strengthen his mandate.
Fair Vote introduced the Fair Representation Act in Congress on June 26th to help America achieve these goals. You can find more information on our website.