Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party received what one of its own deputies called a “slap in the face” in Sunday’s regional and departmental elections.
The president and his government failed to mobilize supporters, and an estimated 68% of voters rejected polling stations, an unprecedented abstention rate. If there was any consolation for the ruling party, it was that exit polls suggested that Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally had failed to garner the expected support.
The first results indicated that the main winners were several center-right parties, including the main opposition Les Républicains, supported by 29.3% of voters. The National Rally obtained 19.1% and the Socialist Party 16.5%. Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) was estimated to get 10.9% of the vote.
Aurore Bergé, a LREM deputy, said the result was a democratic “slap in the face.” “I am not going to minimize what has happened,” Bergé told BFMTV.
On the Isle of France, which includes Paris, the center-right candidate Valérie Pécresse was in a strong position to maintain control of the region.
In the 2015 regional elections, just over 50% of the French did not vote, a drop of just under 53.7% in 2010.
The vote was to elect new councils for the 13 regions of continental France and one overseas, as well as for 96 departments. Regional councils have multi-billion euro budgets and are responsible for schools, transportation, and economic development. There were a total of 15,786 candidates for the 4,108 seats. Winners are normally chosen for a period of six years.
Le Pen did not run as a candidate, but he campaigned vigorously, especially in rural areas where support for the far right remains high.
In the Paris region, voters could choose from 11 lists (candidates present a list of proposed councilors), including Pécresse for a right-wing coalition, former journalist Audrey Pulvar for the Socialists, Julien Bayou for Europa Ecology the Greens and Clémentine Autin for France without kinks to the left.
This year’s campaign, with voting delayed by three months due to the pandemic, has been unique in that the health measures meant that there could be no door-to-door scrutiny, which in any case is not a widespread French electoral tradition. , and until recently outside the demonstrations were limited by sanitary restrictions.
The parties were asked to submit electoral lists that included male and female candidates consecutively on their lists. The number of candidates chosen from each list depends on the score of each party.
The Le Pen National Rally hopes to gain control of a region to fuel its decade-long effort to legitimize its party, formerly the National Front. The region likely to lean to the extreme right is the traditional bastion of the National Rally in the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, covering Marseille, Saint-Tropez and Cannes. However, the party was strong in five other regions, including Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Center-Val de Loire, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Occitanie, and Brittany.
In Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, early estimates suggested that the National Rally is fighting side by side with Les Républicains after the first round vote.
Between Sunday’s results and next week’s second round, the focus will be on the alliances that are made between the parties. Candidates running in the first round must get at least 10% of the vote to advance to the second round, and an important question for the second round is whether French voters will come together again to keep Le Pen’s party out. of power as they have in the past. .
There is general agreement that it is unwise to combine regional results with predictions of what will happen in next year’s presidential elections. Neither the majority right, Les Républicains, nor the majority left, the Socialists, have a credible presidential candidate at this stage.
Analysts said the level of abstention cast doubt on any political predictions.
A recent poll for the Journal du Dimanche suggested that 49% of the French believed that any regional victory would make the National Rally a “danger to democracy.”
Most polls suggest that the 2022 presidential race will be a runoff between Macron and Le Pen.
Next Sunday the second round of regional and departmental elections will be held.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism