The French far right of Marine Le Pen failed to win any region while the centrist ruling party of President Emmanuel Macron suffered another poll drubbing in the second round of regional elections Sunday, again marked by a woeful turnout.
In a confirmation of trends set in the 20 June first round, Macron’s ruling party could not even break into double figures nationwide let alone win any region, according to the estimates by polling organisations broadcast by French television.
The Ifop estimate forecast the LREM would garner just seven percent of the votes nationwide.
The LREM’s chief Stanislas Guerini admitted the elections marked a “disappointment for the presidential majority”.
The National Rally (RN) of Le Pen failed to realise its main ambition of winning the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) region that includes Marseille and Nice, with RN candidate Thierry Mariani defeated by his right-wing rival Renaud Muselier with 57.7 percent compared to 42 percent.
“The logic of unity” was the winner, Muselier said, noting that many had voted for him in spite of personal political allegiances to defeat the RN.
“This evening we have not won any region,” said Le Pen, blaming “unnatural alliances” between foes and saying that “mobilisation is the key” to victories in the future.
Traditional right makes gains
Right-wing heavyweight Xavier Bertrand meanwhile held onto the northeastern Hauts-de-France, with 53 percent of the vote, cementing his credibility as a 2022 presidential challenger from the traditional right.
“This result gives me the strength to go out and meet all the French,” said Bertrand in reference to his upcoming presidential campaign.
Laurent Wauquiez also retained his spot in the southeast Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region with 55.3 percent.
Valérie Pécresse carried Ile-de-France, which includes Paris and its suburbs, with 46 percent. She had been challenged by a socialist and green alliance lead by Julien Bayou on 33.6 percent.
There was success as well for Christelle Morançais (LR) in Pays de la Loire with 46.3 percent, Jean Rottner dans le Grand Est 39 percent and Hervé Morin in Normandy 44.2 percent.
The Socialists also retained several regions, partly due to second-round pacts with the far-left France Unbowed (LFI) party and Green Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV).
At the top, Carole Delga on 57.8 percent in Occitanie. Marie-Guite Dufay on 42.5 percent in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Alain Rousset in Nouvelle-Aquitaine 39.3 percent, François Bonneau in Centre-Val de Loire 38.6 percent and Loïg Chesnais-Girard in Bretagne 29.5 percent.
Leader of the far-left France Unbowed, Jean-Luc Mélenchon congratulated his colleagues for the progress they had made across France, and thanked those who made “the painful” choice of voting conservative in PACA to block the far-right.
Record high abstention
According to a poll by Ipsos/Sopra Steria, the abstention rate for the second round was at 65.7 percent, slightly lower than the rate for the first round which stood at 66.72 percent.
The latest estimations show a particularly high rate of abstention in the Grand Est region, where 7 out of 10 voters did not participate.
In Corsica, abstention was significantly lower, at an estimated 41.8 percent.
Voter turnout has steadily gone down over the last few years.
At regional elections in December 2015, the participation rate was 50.54 percent (compared to 27.89 percent on Sunday), and 41.92 percent for the department elections in March 2015.
“I don’t really know what the point is,” said Helene Debotte, 31, who said she would not vote in these polls but would in the presidential elections. “There, it’s clear what is at stake.”