As soon as France has elected its president, the next vote is due. And things are also going differently in the parliamentary elections than in Germany. Explanations to keep the overview.

The French will go to the polls on Sunday to elect the National Assembly. In contrast to the federal election, there are only direct mandates and a lengthy election. And Parliament works differently too. This is how the vote in the neighboring country works.

What is the role of the National Assembly?

The National Assembly is the central power center of the French Parliament. The 577 MPs are directly elected for five years and vote on laws. There is also a second chamber of parliament, the Senate, which, however, plays a less important role and is elected at a different time. Because if the chambers do not agree, the government can give the National Assembly the last word. The Senate is currently conservative. So far, the center alliance of Head of State Emmanuel Macron has had the majority in the National Assembly.

How important is a win for Macron?

For the President, a majority in the National Assembly is not only important for passing laws. The lower house can also overthrow the government with a vote of no confidence. If a camp other than Macron’s received an absolute majority, he would effectively be forced to appoint another head of government. However, such a scenario is currently considered unlikely. If Macron loses the absolute majority in the parliamentary chamber, he and the government will have to seek support from the opposition for their plans. His position would be weakened.

How does the election work?

The deputies are directly elected by the people by first-past-the-post system. Anyone who receives more than half of the votes cast in their constituency gets the seat in parliament, provided this corresponds to at least a quarter of the registered voters there. But only very few can do that.

Most of the seats will be allocated in a runoff a week later. Anyone who has received at least 12.5 percent of the votes of the registered voters goes into this final round. However, because voter turnout in parliamentary elections is often low, this is also an obstacle for many candidates. In any case, the first two places advance. In the second round, the person with the most votes wins.

The election traditionally takes place just a few weeks after the presidential election. Many in France see it as confirmation of the previous result. Therefore, more supporters of the winner participate than of the defeated candidates.

Why isn’t there a correct result on Sunday evening?

The election is initially decided at the level of the constituencies. There is no national result like the second vote in Germany. Nevertheless, institutes add up the direct votes cast for the parties and alliances nationwide and thus come up with results in percent. However, because hardly any seats are allocated in the first round and the situation changes again in the second round, it is difficult to conclude from this result which party will win a seat and where.

How does the electoral system affect the allocation of seats?

The first-past-the-post system makes it difficult for small parties to vote in parliamentary elections. Because they often don’t even make it to the second round. Because in the end only the votes for the winner in the constituency determine the allocation of seats, many in France complain that the parliament is not very representative. In 2017, for example, Marine Le Pen’s right-wing nationalists received 13.2 percent of the votes in the first round, but ultimately won only 8 of the 577 seats, which corresponds to around 1.4 percent.