PARIS (Reuters) - They are 214 men and 214 women, an ex-fighter pilot here, a mathematician there. Just over half have never been elected before, and only 5 percent are sitting MPs.
With an average age of 46, these are the people President elect Emmanuel Macron hopes will enter the Paris National Assembly parliament building on June 27 and change French politics for good.
Why so many unknowns?
“That’s the charm of our movement,” said Benjamin Griveaux, a senior official of the one-year old party, Republic on the Move (REM), under whose banner Macron won the presidency on Sunday, blowing apart decades of right-left political alignment and threatening the jobs of hundreds of career politicians.
“The new president was an unknown too three years ago. He’s a bit better known today. I think the French people made something very clear during this presidential election - their desire for new faces and new ways of working, and here we are proposing new faces and new ways of working.”
Not all the 428 chosen so far to stand in France’s 577 constituencies are total unknowns.
The politically savvy among them include outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande’s communications adviser Gaspard Gantzer, and former junior minister Barbara Pompili, a former environmentalist lawmaker.
Nevertheless, the potential backlash against the dominance of career politics - a worldwide phenomenon - is a significant one.
Among the newcomers in politics are Marion Buchet, a former fighter jet pilot, who fought in Syria, and Cedric Villani, a prize-winning mathematician.
Herve Berville, aged 27, is a Rwandan-born economist adopted at the age of four by a French family in Cote d‘Armor, Brittany, the constituency where he will stand, while in the Cote d‘Or region around Dijon, 63 year-old retired businesswoman Yolaine de Courson will fight Macron’s cause.
The selection committee had plenty to choose from.
In all, more than 19,000 people applied to be REM candidates. That is 34 per available constituency, and it took the selection committee 250 hours over three months to make their selection.
Standing in Pas de Calais 11 - a northern constituency where the losing far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen might be her opponent, is 45 year-old businesswoman Anne Roquet.
“I have waited a long time for this party that transcends parties, that transcends all political divisions,” she told La Voix du Nord local newspaper.
At the other end of the country in Marseille is another unlikely match.
There, businesswoman Corinne Versini, who runs a high-tech ink making company, faces the far-left showman and orator Jean-Luc Melenchon, who was knocked out in the first round of the presidential contest.
Not all the ‘political virgins’ are complete unknowns, however. Among the more famous ones is Eric Halphen, a former anti-corruption judge who worked on an inquiry into fraud in the public housing sector in Paris during the 1990s.
Business consultant and accountant Pierre Alain Raphan, 34, is standing for Macron’s party in the Essonne, heartland of another first round presidential contest loser, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.
Should the campaign for the two-round contest on June 11 and June 18 turn to hand-to-hand combat, Raphan has the necessary skills - a black belt in the martial art Taekwondo.
Reporting by Michel Rose and; Andrew Callus; Editing by Ingrid Melander