French regional elections: Voters stay away as Macron suffers bad night

The first round of France's regional elections on Sunday were marked by a record low turn-out, a sluggish performance from Marine Le Pen's far-right party and a bad night for the president Emmanuel Macron.

French regional elections: Voters stay away as Macron suffers bad night
French president Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Christian Hartmann/AFP

Voters, albeit not many of them, headed to the polls on Sunday for the first round of voting for regional presidencies in France’s 13 regions and five overseas territories.

Keenly observed as the last elections before the presidential vote in 2022, in fact the big winner was abstention with a massive 66 percent of the population not bothering to vote at all.

That marked highest abstention rate recorded in recent French history for any type of election.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party had been hoping to stamp its mark in the first round, but instead saw the vote share fall in many areas compared to the last regional elections in 2015.

The party did, however, finish ahead in the southern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

The rest of France was divided between candidates for centre-left and centre-right coalitions.

The centre-right president of the greater Paris region of Île-de-France Valerie Pecresse was on course to be re-elected in next week’s second round. Her colleague in Les Republicains party Xavier Bertrand, who will run for president in 2022 was also in pole position to be re-elected in the northern region of Hauts de France.

As was forecast President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche party, formed in 2016, performed poorly. LREM candidates in many regions did not make it through to the second round of voting. 

Candidates ran on anti-mask, anti-lockdown or Covid-sceptic platforms in several regions and all did extremely badly, with none scoring more than one percent of the vote.

You can find the full results by region HERE.

The second round of voting takes place on Sunday, June 27th, when voters head back to the polls to vote on the highest scoring candidates from the first round. 

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French minister: US green plan should be ‘wake-up call’ for EU industry

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday said Washington's $430 billion plan to spur climate-friendly technologies in the United States must be seen as a wake-up call for Europe.

French minister: US green plan should be 'wake-up call' for EU industry

The EU “must be able to sweep in front of our own door” before worrying about the effects of the US climate plan on European industry, Le Maire told AFP in Washington, where he was part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s US state visit.

Even though the EU has already “changed its approach” on promoting green industry, the US climate plan must be seen as a “wake-up call” in the European Union, he added.

Le Maire’s comments came as EU countries have poured criticism on Washington’s landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), seeing it as anti-competitive and a threat to European jobs, especially in the energy and auto sectors.

Subsidies for green energy

The act, designed to accelerate the US transition to a low-carbon economy, contains around $370 billion in subsidies for green energy as well as tax cuts for US-made electric cars and batteries.

Macron on Wednesday slammed the plan’s “Made in USA” provisions as “super aggressive” for European businesses.

But at a joint press conference with Macron, Biden said that he and the French leader had agreed to “discuss practical steps to coordinate and align our approaches”, though he said he would not apologize for the US plan.

Biden added the IRA was never intended to disadvantage any US allies.

Threats of retaliatory measures

Last month, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton threatened to appeal to the World Trade Organization and consider “retaliatory measures” if the United States did not reverse its subsidies.

Le Maire also criticized the EU’s own climate spending plans, arguing that they were too cumbersome and loaded with red tape.

“If the ambition is the same” as the Europeans, the United States relies on methods that “are simpler and faster”, he said.

“They put immediate and massive tax credits where we provide state aid (to specific projects) which sometimes take two years to be adopted and are too complex to implement,” said Le Maire.