French far-right falls short in regional elections ahead of presidential vote

PARIS – The French far-right once again failed to win a single region in Sunday’s elections, polls showed that took away its leader Marine Le Pen’s chance to show her party is fit for power ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Southern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) was seen as the best opportunity for the far-right Rassemblement National party to secure its first regional power base, but parties from left to right formed a “republican front”. to keep it out

On an election night that was also humiliating for President Emmanuel Macron, his party was unable to win a single region. However, a government source said that while reshuffle is not in sight, some adjustments are possible.

In Provence, the first exit surveys by IFOP and Opinionway showed that the incumbent Conservatives triumphed in the runoff election by around 10 points

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“Tonight we won’t win in any region because the incumbents have forged unnatural alliances and done everything they can to keep us out and prevent us from showing the French our ability to run regional administration,” said Le Pen towards supporters.

Le Pen has beaten the government over a disastrously organized vote after about two out of three voters abstained.

The results raise questions about how successful Le Pen’s strategy has been in softening the image of its anti-immigrant, Euro-skeptical party in an attempt to penetrate the traditional voices of the right.

Even so, analysts say Le Pen and her party’s apparent failure to win in two of their strongholds shouldn’t be extrapolated to next year’s presidential election.

The exit polls showed that the election in each of France’s 13 regions was won by the incumbent center-right or center-left lists, after Macron’s ruling party, which did not exist at the time of the last regional election in 2015, did not have a single region of its own .

Their poor performance underscores that Macron’s party has failed to establish itself locally, and the “la macronie” wave that brought him to power revolves around the figure of the president.

The French right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen speaks to the press in the party headquarters on Sunday after the first results of the second round of the French regional elections in Nanterre.Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt / AFP – Getty Images

The regional votes left Macron facing the prospect of a narrower path to re-election next year after the center-right staged a comeback that raised the possibility of a three-way race.

Conservative Xavier Bertrand cemented his status as the center-right’s best chance to challenge Macron and Le Pen after a comfortable victory in the north by more than 25 points over the far-right.

He described himself as the defender of the French who “can’t make ends meet” and as the strongest bulwark against the extreme right.

“The right-wing extremists were stopped and we pushed them back a lot,” Bertrand told supporters shortly after the polling stations closed.

“This result gives me the strength to seek the voice of the nation,” said Bertrand, referring to next year’s elections.

Another re-elected regional boss, Valerie Pecresse in the Paris area, who was previously considered a possible candidate for 2022, praised the “French right-wing team” on Sunday. Observers saw in her statements a sign that she could stand behind Bertrand.

Senior Conservatives crowed that the strong performance of the center-right across the country means it is the best-placed force for change.

According to pollers, the turnout was an estimated 35 percent. As a rule, voters have little affinity with their regional administrations, which are responsible for promoting economic development, transport and high schools.

“I have absolutely no intention of voting today, simply because I have lost confidence in our politicians,” Parisian Jean-Jacques told Reuters TV as he strolled on one of the Seine bridges during the day.

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