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May 13, 2017

PARIS (AP) — President-elect Emmanuel Macron promised that his new movement would reinvigorate French politics by bringing in a greater variety of lawmakers. On Saturday, candidates running under his banner got to see just how different they are from politics as usual.

The candidates gathered in Paris for a training workshop for June’s crucial parliamentary election. The workshop comes a day before Macron is sworn into office. His Republic on the Move movement has announced an initial list of 428 candidates for the 577 seats up for grabs in June in France’s lower house of parliament.

Many are newcomers in politics. Their average age is 46, compared to 60 for the outgoing assembly. Half of them are women. Only 24 are lawmakers running for reelection, all Socialists. A former economy minister, Macron quit President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government last year to launch his independent bid. He is the first French president who doesn’t originate from one of the country’s mainstream parties.

French mathematician Cedric Villani, 43, applied to run under Macron’s banner. He is now a candidate in the 5th district of Essonne, south of Paris. “It is about going over traditional and sterile differences and fights between the right and the left,” he explained. “There is also an attachment to the European idea, the dimension of progress, and the way of protecting France in the world, and there is the will to include more the civil society in politics.”

Villani has a successful career as a researcher and university professor. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 2010 for his work on optimal transport. “I already changed my life several times, I was a researcher, a managing director, I was a public personality,” Villani told The Associated Press. “It’s important to make a change from time to time, and in most cases, your previous lives will help you in your future life. One gets richer with various experiences.”

Lawyer Alice Thourot, 31, is a candidate in her Drome region, in south of France. “I really wanted to participate. I was always a spectator of the political life of my country, and now I wanted to become an actor of it. That is what motivated me,” she said.

The gathering aimed to give the newcomers in politics more information on administrative, financial, judicial procedures as well as media training sessions. “You are the new faces of French politics … it’s the first promise kept,” Macron told them in a speech, according to a tweet by lawmaker Christophe Castaner, a close ally.

The press was not allowed to attend the gathering. Macron will officially take power on Sunday following an inauguration ceremony with his predecessor Hollande at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. He is then expected to quickly name a prime minister whose role will include leading the campaign for the two-part June 11 and June 18 legislative election.

Meanwhile, far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came in fourth in the first round of France’s presidential election with about 19.6 percent of the vote, launched his campaign for the legislative election on Saturday in the Paris suburb of Villejuif.

Melenchon called on leftist voters to choose his movement’s candidates to oppose Macron’s policies, which he thinks threaten workers’ rights. Melenchon himself is a candidate in the southern city of Marseille.

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