PARIS,

French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist party swept to a large majority in parliamentary elections on Sunday, although it fell short of a predicted landslide.

Macron's year-old Republique en Marche (Republic on the Move, REM) and their allies won 351 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, final results showed after the second round of an election which has eliminated many high-profile figures.

470 TARGET

The party Macron founded just 16 months ago has re-drawn the French political map, although the winning score was considerably lower than the 470 seats predicted by some pre-vote surveys.

But it gives the 39-year-old president one of France's biggest post-war majorities, strengthening his hand in implementing his programme of business-friendly reforms.

"A year ago, no-one would have imagined such a political renewal," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.

"It is down to the president's desire to breathe new life into democracy and to the French people who wanted to give parliament a new face."

Macron's success was tempered by a record low turnout of just under 44 percent, leading his opponents to claim he had no groundswell of support.

REM routed the Socialists and heavily defeated the rightwing Republicans, while the far-right National Front (FN) of Marine Le Pen — whom Macron defeated in the presidential run-off on May 7 — had a disappointing night.

FIRST TIME

Le Pen entered parliament for the first time in her career in one of at least eight seats won by the FN, but the party fell well short of its 15-seat target.

Le Pen's victory in the northern former coalmining town of Henin-Beaumont was a rare bright spot for her nationalist and anti-EU party that was once hoping to emerge as the principal opposition to Macron.

She insisted the FN still had a key role to play, saying: "We are the only force of resistance to the watering down of France, of its social model and its identity."

The Socialists were the biggest losers, punished for the high unemployment, social unrest and lost national confidence that marked their five years in power.

The party of former president Francois Hollande shed more than 250 seats, obtaining just 29 seats.

DOGFIGHT

"The rout of the Socialist Party is undeniable," said PS leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, who lost his seat in the first round and resigned his position on Sunday night.

Page 1 of 2