If Emmanuel Macron gets his way, France will have more women in parliament than all but two countries in the world

Allez les femmes!
Allez les femmes!
Image: Reuters/Benoit Tessier
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Before Emmanuel Macron won the French presidency in a landslide victory last week (May 7), he promised to fill half or more of the elected seats in his new government with women. An announcement this week of the first 428 of 577 candidates shows he’s sticking to his word.

Macron’s party, En Marche!, which he formed just over a year ago, will field 214 women and 214 men for seats in the next round of voting for France’s lower house on June 8 and 11. Macron won the presidency (paywall) by a decisive margin (66%) against his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen. But he has yet to form a government, either through a majority of ministers elected under his new party, or through a coalition with other parties.

The question is whether the centrist candidate, who has never held elected office, can field candidates who rival the campaigning might and stature of those running under France’s established parties (mainly the Republicans and the Socialists). Macron’s underfunded campaign is run mostly on a gaggle of 250,000 volunteers and political newbies.

The idea that Macron could win all 289 seats that he needs to form a majority, and that all of his female En Marche! candidates will win, is extremely lofty. If he pulled it off, France would leapfrog 60 countries to take third place globally for its share of women in parliament. The scenario is unlikely, but it certainly speaks to grand ambitions.

So far, finding all those women hasn’t proved easy. Announcing the nominations on Thursday, Richard Ferrand, the party’s general secretary, said it had received 19,000 applications from would-be members of parliament, but only 29% were from women; the rest were from men.

In terms of female representation, France does a better job with appointed cabinet positions. More than half (52.9%) of its cabinet ministers are women, placing it jointly on top globally with Bulgaria and Nicaragua, according to UN Women data. By contrast, its 25.8% share of women in parliament puts it in 63rd place, on par with Canada (62nd) and Honduras (64th). For now, Rwanda and Bolivia are the only countries to have half or more of their parliamentary seats held by women.