When Emmanuel Macron was campaigning to become the president of France, he laid out an ambitious plan to overhaul what many said were third-rail pillars of the country — retirement benefits and employee protections, for example — in order to make the country more competitive.
When he won an upset victory and began choosing a cabinet to carry out his plan, many questioned whether Mr. Macron, 39, could ever come up with enough legislative candidates to pass his agenda. But he did, selecting a roster of newcomers to politics that included minorities and many women.
On Sunday, the French will vote in the first of two rounds for representatives to the National Assembly, the powerful lower house of the French Parliament and, in essence, decide whether to back the man, his cabinet and his plan.
What’s at stake
Mr. Macron needs an outright majority in the 577-seat National Assembly to have a clear path to enact his sweeping program. His party and an allied party that is running with his are fielding more than 400 districts.
If 289 or more from the president’s party are elected, he will have his majority. Any fewer would mean having to work with other parties, or worse, seeing another party obtain a majority, allowing it to impose a new prime minister and government on Mr. Macron — seriously hampering his ability to carry out domestic changes.
However, if the polls are any measure, Mr. Macron is expected to easily win a majority.
His victory in the presidential race on May 7 decimated the establishment parties,
Both the right and left will probably end up with small fractions of Mr. Macron’s total. The far-right National Front, the party of Marine Le Pen, Mr. Macron’s presidential runoff opponent, is predicted to gain more seats than it ever has before, but far fewer than its leaders had hoped. It may include one for Ms. Le Pen in the country’s far north.
Mr. Macron’s party is fielding a large number of candidates who have never held political office and who work in either civil service or business.
In fact, with very few disqualifying conditions, any French citizen 18 or older can run for the National Assembly, the more powerful of the Parliament’s two chambers.
Candidates are elected directly by voters in France and the country’s overseas territories. A candidate does not have to live or vote in the district in which he or she is running. The ease of entry means that, over all, there are more than 7,800 candidates; in some districts, there are more than 17 for the seat.
Political parties have a lot to gain financially in these elections, because they receive funding from the state based not only on the number of candidates elected, but also on the percentage of the vote a particular party gets nationwide, provided that its candidates in at least 50 districts receive more than 1 percent of the vote.
This gives an incentive to small parties — whose candidates have little chance of making it into the runoff — to compete. Notably, parties are penalized financially if they fail to field an equal number of male and female candidates.
A candidate who receives more than half the votes wins outright, as long as that vote total exceeds 25 percent of the number of eligible voters in the district. Any candidates who receive votes from more than 12.5 percent of the total number of eligible voters in their district will compete in runoff elections, which will be held on June 18.
Most runoffs involve just two candidates, but can involve three or four. In the second round, the candidate with the most votes wins.
Why this matters
With the collapse of traditional parties and the rapid rise of a party that is barely a year old, the legislative elections are shaping up to be historic for the Fifth Republic, said Marc Abélès, a professor of political anthropology at the École des Hautes Études des Sciences Sociale.
The first legislative elections were held under Charles de Gaulle, the World War II hero who was elected president in 1958. As it did in Mr. de Gaulle’s case, the election beginning Sunday will determine the overall support for the newly elected president’s sweeping program.
Mr. Macron will need a parliamentary majority to turn his proposals into law.
The election also will be a reflection of how voters view the political landscape. If the polls are accurate, there is a broad and deep disillusionment with the traditional political parties on the left and right (the Socialists and the Republicans), and even those on the far left and far right, including with the National Front.
Typically, the turnout is lower for legislative elections than for presidential ones. While the turnout is generally expected to be 60 percent to 70 percent this year, recent polling suggests it could be lower.
Outcomes to watch
The abstention rate, which could be an indicator of voters’ current enthusiasm for politics.
Whether high-profile defeated presidential candidates who are running in legislative races — such as the far-right candidate Ms. Le Pen and the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon — make it to the second round.
How many of Mr. Macron’s candidates make it to the second round, and with what kind of vote totals.