In the second round of legislative elections recently, 223 women were elected to France’s lower house. With 38.65% of seats in the National Assembly, the election marks a new record for female representation in the French parliament.
Women now hold 223 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, a significant increase over the previous legislature’s 155, which also set a record at the time. These are notable advances since the 33 pioneering female lawmakers of 1945, but they still fall short of true equality in representation.
The marked increase can be explained in part by the success of President Emmanuel Macron’s year-old La République en Marche (Republic on the move or LREM) party, 47% of whose parliamentarians are now women. But LREM is closely followed by the Democratic Movement party (46%), France Insoumise (41%) and the Socialist Party (38%) in terms of its female representation. Women account for 25% of National Front parliamentarians while Les Républicains (23%), the Communist Party of France (20%), and the Union of Democrats and Independents or UDI (17%) bring up the rear.
But the Macron phenomenon – vigorous as it is – does not explain everything. The feminization of Parliament is part of a broader historical shift that has been taking place over the past 30 years, during which the number of women has increased with each legislature – in 1993 there were 42 female MPs, followed by 77 in 2002 and 155 in 2012. The rise of women in politics has reflected the increasing empowerment of women in all sectors of society.
There are also legal reasons for this trend. “Two recent laws have favored an increase in female candidates,” says Mariette Sineau, a political scientist at the Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po (Cevipof). One law has doubled the fines imposed on parties whose MP nominations do not include the required 49% reserved for female candidates.
The second piece of legislation now forbids parliamentarians from concurrently serving as mayors or regional councilors as they have in the past, a move that has opened up these positions to others, including women and young people.
The head of the National Assembly may also turn out to be a woman from Macron’s party. Barbara Pompili – a former Green candidate supported by the LREM party who won re-election in the Somme region with 61.89% of the vote – is regularly cited as a possible candidate.
It remains to be seen whether the women’s wave will change the way the lower house is governed. But Sineau of Sciences Po is hopeful.
“The arrival of female lawmakers and other new parliamentarians, which will reinvigorate the National Assembly, could curtail the power of the old guard and allow for the emergence of innovative ideas in several areas of political life,” she said.