The results of the first round were a boost for the traditional right-wing Republicans as well as for the Socialist Party.
French voters will go to the polls in the second round of regional elections on Sunday after a first round that affected President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party, disappointing Marine Le Pen’s far right and registering low turnout.
Voting began at 8am (06:00 GMT) and the last polling stations would close 12 hours later.
For some observers, the outcome of the June 20 first round raised doubts about whether the 2022 presidential election would be reduced to a duel between Macron and Le Pen in a second round considered the most likely scenario.
The results of the first round were a boost for the traditional right-wing Republicans, as well as for the Socialist Party, which have been squeezed after centrist Macron came to power in 2017 with his new Republican in Motion (LREM) party.
Analysts warn against excessive extrapolation at the national level based on the results of regional elections, which choose the heads of the 13 French mainland regions from Brittany in the northwest to the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region in the South East.
But there was concern among parties about participation in last week’s polls, which were shunned by 66.72% of voters, a record in modern France.
The unfortunate turnout sparked a debate on how to improve turnout, with several figures, including government spokesman Gabriel Attal, suggesting that electronic voting could help in the future.
According to a poll released on Thursday, only 36 percent of voters plan to vote on Sunday.
Advance of the eyes of extreme right
The results of the first round placed Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) in a single region, PACA, a major disappointment after polls showed possible progress in several areas.
One of the most followed races this Sunday will be whether RN candidate Thierry Mariani can defeat his right-wing rival Renaud Muselier in the region.
The results of the first round made an even more unpleasant reading for Macron and his LREM, which confirmed the party’s failure to take local and regional roots despite controlling the presidency and lower house of parliament.
Despite sending several ministers to the campaign and Macron himself embarking on a nationwide tour (which at one point saw him hit by a spectator), in some regions, LREM did not raise the 10 percent needed to make the second round.
LREM has almost no chance of gaining control of a single region and is currently only number five in France’s political parties.
The Socialists are expected to reclaim some regions, in part because of the support of far-left party France Unbowed.