Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party fell short of expectations in France’s first round of regional elections on Sunday, leaving Les Républicains and other center-right politicians in a strong position for the second and last ballot next weekend.
The relatively poor results of the anti-immigration RN – with a record turnout of around 33% – will also bring some comfort to Emmanuel Macron, who is set to face Le Pen when he seeks re-election as president next year.
Le Pen called the low turnout a “civic disaster” which gave a false impression of the political situation. “If you want things to change, you have to vote,” she said in a brief speech as the results began to emerge.
Xavier Bertrand, the center-right leader of the Hauts-de-France region in the north, was on his way to re-election and received a boost in his own presidential ambitions, with early estimates from BFMTV after the closing of the polling stations granting him 44% of the votes, against 24.4% for the RN of Le Pen.
Recalling that the RN had led the region after the first round in 2015, Bertrand had boasted in a speech of “breaking the jaws” of his far-right rivals in this year’s electoral battle. Le Pen had campaigned in the north and hoped to bring the region back to his party in Sunday’s vote.
Early estimates suggested Le Pen’s party could be within reach of a first-round lead in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur in the south. But even there, the performance was less impressive than predicted by opinion polls, which had suggested the RN would take control of the region after the second round in the first such victory in its history.
This now seems less easy for the RN to achieve, since other parties have tended in the past to unite in a so-called “republican front” in the second round to prevent the far right from gaining power.
At the national level, the center-right lists are expected to garner around 29% of the votes cast in the first round, against 19% for the RN, 16% for the Socialist Party, 13% for the Greens and 11% for the centrist La party. Macron’s Republic on the march.
The parties in power have performed well, with LR elected representatives in the lead in the Grand Est region in the east, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes in the south-east and Ile-de-France around Paris. The Socialists expected to hold Occitania and Brittany to the west.
Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior, declared that the record low turnout was “particularly worrying”, adding: “Our collective effort must be to mobilize the French for the second round”.
The low turnout did not address the fears of Macron’s ally François Bayrou by profiting either the far right or the far left, and may have been the result of voter fatigue in the face of politics. and a desire to have fun after more than a year of Covid-19. pandemic.
“The French are completely on their minds,” Brice Teinturier of the Ipsos polling group said in a webinar last week. “We are emerging from the pandemic. . . and the economic outlook is improving a lot.