Far right wavers as conservatives lead French regional vote


Polling agencies and the first official results estimate that the traditional French conservative party dominated the first round of the regional elections and that the far-right party of Marine Le Pen performed less well than expected.

The bickering seemed to deter some voters, and less than 34% showed up, according to polling agencies. Politicians from all walks of life begged voters at the home to wake up for the decisive second round on June 17.

Le Pen described the low turnout as “a civic disaster that has distorted the electoral reality of the country and produced a misleading view of the current political forces”.

The result is a clear setback for the Le Pen National Gathering, although it came in second place in most regions, according to initial official results and projections from polling agencies. He hopes to gain control of a region for the first time in order to bolster his decade-long efforts to legitimize a party long seen as an anti-democratic and anti-Semitic pariah.

He led the pre-election polls and directed the campaign discourse towards his favorite topics, the police and immigration – although both are matters dealt with by the central government and not by the regional councils. The party dominated the first round of the last regional elections in 2015, but collapsed in the second round as parties and voters rallied against it.

The result is also a deep embarrassment for Macron, whose young La République en Marche party had hoped for the first time to establish itself in the region but failed to excite voters.

They were followed by the National Rally at 18-19%, then the Socialist Party and its allies, the Greens, Macron’s La République en Marche and the far left France Unbowed. The first official results for each region reflected a similar distribution.

Parties that win more than 10% of the vote advance to the second round, which will determine the number of seats each party obtains in regional councils.

Many polling stations were largely empty as voting began in schools and community centers in Marseille on the Mediterranean coast in Le Touquet on the Manche. Those who showed up to vote were required to remain masked and socially distanced and carry their own pens to sign the ballot records.

The posture of potential presidential candidates has frustrated voters like Patrice Grignoux, a 62-year-old technology consultant who voted in Paris.

“The presidential election is a world in itself,” 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 which have nothing to do with national problems.

A key battle has taken place in Hauts-de-France, a strip of northern France that includes the port of Calais, where five of Macron’s government ministers have joined the campaign – but his party has not even reached the second round, according to the first results.

Another race to watch is the region which includes Provence, the French Riviera and part of the Alps, where National Rally candidate Thierry Mariani appeared to have a thinner lead than expected over the outgoing curator. Mariani said he wanted more policing and more public funding for groups promoting individual communities, which many see as targeting Muslim associations or LGBTQ movements.

Macron’s party did not exist the last time voters chose regional leaders in 2015. He faces disillusionment with Macron’s policies, including from rural voters who supported the uprising of yellow vests against perceived economic injustice.


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