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POLITICS

Le Pen’s far-right fails to win any areas in French regional elections

Marine Le Pen's far-right has failed to win any region in France's local elections.

Le Pen's far-right fails to win any areas in French regional elections
Rassemblement National leader Marine Le Pen. Photo: Denis Charlet/AFP

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.

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.

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FRENCH POLITICS

Pro-Macron MP becomes France’s first woman speaker

France's lower house of parliament has agreed to pick an MP from President Emmanuel Macron's centrist coalition as the first woman speaker, despite the ruling alliance losing its majority in legislative elections.

Pro-Macron MP becomes France's first woman speaker

Yael Braun-Pivet, who had been serving as the minister for overseas territories, is the first woman to ever hold the post of speaker in the history of the Assemblée nationale.

Despite the loss of its overall majority, Macron’s ruling alliance still managed to push through her appointment in the second round of voting.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and other senior Macron backers have been trying to win over individual right-wing and moderate left parliamentarians to bolster their ranks.

Borne, appointed last month, is France’s second woman prime minister after the brief stint by Edith Cresson in the 1990s.

Olivier Marleix, head of the centre-right Les Républicains group seen as most compatible with Macron, met Borne on Tuesday. “We’ve told her again there is no question of any kind of coalition,” he said.

But he added that the prime minister “really showed that she wanted to listen to us. That’s quite a good sign.

“We’re here to try and find solutions,” he added. “There will be some draft laws where I think we should be able to work together,” including one to boost households’ purchasing power in the face of food and energy inflation.

“It’s not in the interest of parties who have just been elected” to make a long-term deal to support the government, said Marc Lazar, a professor at Paris’s Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Borne under pressure

One key question will be whether Thursday’s vote to head the finance committee – with its extensive powers to scrutinise government spending – will be won by an MP from the far-right Rassemblement National (RN).

Led by Macron’s defeated presidential opponent Marine Le Pen, the RN would usually have a claim on the post as the largest single opposition party.

It faces a stiff challenge from the NUPES left alliance – encompassing Greens, Communists, Socialists and the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) – who agreed on Tuesday on a joint candidate after some internal jostling.

Next week could see exchanges heat up in the chamber, as government chief Borne delivers a speech setting out her policy priorities.

Macron told AFP at the weekend that he had “decided to confirm (his) confidence in Elisabeth Borne” and asked her to continue talks to find either allies for the government in parliament or at least backing for crucial confidence and budget votes.

The president has ruled out both tax increases and higher public borrowing in any compromise deals with other parties.

Even as the government projects business almost as usual, hard-left LFI especially has vowed to try to prevent key proposals, such as the flagship reform to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 65.

Party deputy chief Adrien Quatennens said on Sunday there was “no possible agreement” with Macron, saying cooperation would “make no sense”.

“We haven’t heard (Macron) move or back down one iota on pension reform” or other controversial policies, he added.

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