Marine Le Pen’s far-right party has suffered a severe electoral blow when it failed to win a regional election in its stronghold in southern France.
The Rassemblement National (RN) had put their last chances to take the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region after emerging victorious from last week’s first-round vote, albeit by a small margin.
However, an alliance of rival parties to form a “republican front” against the RN – including the withdrawal of the socialist party and candidate of the left alliance – prevented the extreme right from taking over the region.
Sunday’s result was a final bitter disappointment for the RN, which had been predicted to do well in at least five regions in the first-round vote last Sunday. In the end, the RN came first only in PACA, and then only by a narrow margin.
Exit polls suggested that PACA Les Républicains candidate Renaud Muselier had obtained a convincing 56.6% of the vote against RN’s Thierry Mariani 43.4%.
Later, Le Pen said that local democracy was suffering a “deep crisis” and criticized the “unnatural alliances” made between political rivals to confuse an RN victory and “prevent us from showing that we can govern a region.”
In a short but challenging post-election speech, Le Pen added that the abstention rate showed “discontent” among voters that was a “great sign for the entire political class and society.”
While many saw this election as a warm-up for next year’s presidential election, none of the alleged leaders in the 2022 leadership, Emmanuel Macron or Le Pen, has been left with much to celebrate.
Abstention was again an important factor in the election. Despite calls from politicians and Prime Minister Jean Castex for voters to come forward, nearly two-thirds of French voters avoided polling stations in Sunday’s regional elections.
For the first round last Sunday, there was a record abstention of 66.74%. This time, just under 66% of voters did not attend.
Political analysts said the lack of interest in the regional elections is due to France’s focus on next year’s presidential elections and the legislative elections that follow shortly thereafter.
Philippe Ballard, who represented the RN in the Île-de-France region, insisted that the far-right party was increasing its popularity in the country and that this would be played out in the leadership race next year.
Stanislas Guerini, a deputy in the Macron government, La République En Marche (LREM), admitted that the results were also “a disappointment” for the ruling party that failed to win a single region. “We have work to do,” he said, adding that he “rejoiced” that the RN had not won any region.
Xavier Bertrand, a former minister of President Nicolas Sarkozy, re-elected in Hauts-de-France with 52.8%, saw his hopes of representing the right wing in the presidency of next year reinforced.
This is the first election since France’s electoral map was redesigned in 2016, when the 22 regions of the country were reduced to 13.
The main winners appeared to be the majority left-wing Parti Socialiste and left-wing allies, and center-right Les Républicains. Both parties have been absent from the French political landscape since Macron’s centrist LREM party entered the scene in 2017.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism