In a second round of voting in the regional elections that was again marked by record voter abstention, Le Pen failed to win a single region while the centrist ruling party of President Emmanuel Macron suffered another poll drubbing.
Macron’s ruling party could not break into double figures nationwide while Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN) could not realise its main ambition of winning the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region that includes Marseille and Nice, according to official results which confirmed the early exit polls.
Pre-election polling showed Le Pen poised to take control in several areas, but a first round of voting on June 20th – also marked with a record low turnout of 33 percent – saw her party finish ahead in just one region – PACA.
Several other candidates in the area withdrew ahead of the second round of voting on Sunday – the so-called Front républicain – leaving a two-horse race between the far-right candidate and a candidate of the centre right.
Macron’s party – fighting its first regional elections since its formation in 2016 – also did poorly in the first round and didn’t make it through to the second round in many areas, leaving the majority of votes to candidates of the centre-left and centre-right parties.
The regional voting had been closely watched as it is the last time the French go to the polls before choosing a new president in 2022.
The below map from Le Parisien shows the results, with pink representing centre-left candidates or alliances and blue showing centre-right successes.
Une abstention massive, les sortants de droite comme de gauche grands vainqueurs, un scrutin "assez désastreux pour la majorité", "très décevant" pour le RN…
Les 5 enseignements du second tour ⏩https://t.co/5lAmhkilGj via @le_Parisien ft @ludwiggallet #regionales2021 pic.twitter.com/LFyv6wKcoI
— Nicolas Berrod (@nicolasberrod) June 27, 2021
Although analysts have warned of extrapolating too much from these local results to next year’s presidential elections, there was cross-party concern over the turnout for last week’s polls, shunned by 66.72 percent of voters, a record in modern France.
The second round showed a similarly low turnout.
“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.”
Polls have shown most French do not know who leads their regions and what the entities do.
One of the most closely watched races on Sunday was whether the RN candidate Thierry Mariani could defeat his right-wing rival Renaud Muselier in the PACA region.
But Muselier defeated Mariani by a margin of some 10 percent.
Critics have accused Mariani of being an admirer of authoritarians such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Prime Minister Jean Castex warned last week that a Mariani victory would be “very serious” for the country.
The RN also came up short in the Île-de-France region that includes Paris. Its 25-year-old rising star Jordan Bardella failed to trouble right-wing incumbent Valerie Pecresse who held off a coalition of the left and greens.
Right-wing heavyweight Xavier Bertrand meanwhile, held onto the northeastern Hauts-de-France, cementing his credibility as a 2022 presidential challenger from the traditional right.
The results made unpalatable reading for Macron and his LREM, confirming the party’s failure to put down local and regional roots despite controlling the presidency and lower house of parliament.
The LREM’s chief Stanislas Guerini admitted the elections marked a “disappointment for the presidential majority”.
Despite sending several ministers to campaign and Macron himself embarking on a nationwide tour – that saw him at one point slapped by member of the public – in some regions the party failed to muster the required 10 percent to make round two.