Le Pen’s far-right party stumbled, Macron’s centrists crashed and the current Conservatives advanced in the first round of French regional elections, dominated by security concerns and record turnout.
Sunday’s vote, which was to focus on local issues such as transportation, schools and infrastructure, became a general rehearsal for next year’s presidential vote, as they seized the aspirants to the presidency in the regional campaign to test ideas and gain followers.
Macron’s rivals, left and right, remarkably denounced the way the government governed the pandemic.
Disputes appeared to quell some voters and appeared less than 34%, according to election agencies. Politicians across the spectrum begged voters to stay home to run in the decisive second round scheduled for June 17.
Le Pen described the low turnout “as a civic disaster that distorted the country’s electoral reality and produced a misleading view of current political forces.”
Contrasts for Le Pen, Macron
The result is a clear setback for Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, although it came in second in most regions, according to the first official results and the projections of the voting agencies.
He hopes to gain control of a region for the first time to boost his ten-year effort to legitimize a party long considered an anti-democratic, anti-Semitic pariah.
He had been up to the task of pre-election polls and had directed the campaign speech towards his favored police and immigration issues, although both are issues addressed by the central government and not by the regional councils.
The party dominated the first round of the last regional elections of 2015, but collapsed in the second round as parties and voters united against it.
The result is also a deep shame for President Emmanuel Macron, the young Republican party in motion had wished to establish a regional foothold for the first time, but did not excite voters.
Projections by three election agencies show that the Conservative Republican party, which currently leads seven of mainland France’s 13 regions, won the majority of votes on Sunday, between 27 and 29 percent.
They were followed by the national rally with 18-19 per cent, followed by the Socialist Party and its allies, the Greens party, the Macron Republic in motion and the far left France Unbowed. The first official results for each region reflected a similar breakdown.
Parties that win more than 10 percent of the vote advance to the second phase, which will determine the number of seats each party will get in regional councils.
Many polling stations remained largely empty when voting began in schools and community centers, from Marseilles on the Mediterranean coast to Le Touquet on the English Channel.
Those who did turn out to vote had to remain masked and socially distanced and carry their own pens to sign voting records.
The stance of potential presidential candidates frustrated voters such as Patrice Grignoux, a 62-year-old technology consultant who voted in Paris.
“Presidential elections are a world in themselves,” he told The Associated Press. “When you take Brittany or the Paris region, it’s totally different. The north is also completely different … There are problems that you find at the regional level, but they have nothing to do with national problems. “
A key battle took place in the Hauts-de-France, a strip in northern France that includes the port of Calais, where five of Macron’s government ministers joined the campaign, but his party did not even arrive. in the second round, according to the first results.
Another race to watch is the region that includes Provence, the Côte d’Azur and part of the Alps, where National Rally candidate Thierry Mariani appeared to have a lower lead than expected over the Conservative starter.
Mariani has said she wants more police and not more public funding for groups that promote individual communities, which many see as Muslim associations or LGBTQ movements.
Macron’s party did not exist the last time voters elected regional leaders in 2015. It is fighting people’s disillusionment with Macron’s policies, including rural voters who supported the yellow vest revolt. against perceived economic injustice.
The coronavirus only played a minor role in the vote. As infections decreased and vaccinations spread, the French government recently opened restaurants, shops and closed travel opportunities.
As of Sunday, the prime minister dismissed an unpopular curfew during the day, just in time for the election.