France’s far right performed worse than predicted in Sunday’s regional elections, exit polls showed, leaving victory in the southern battleground of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and a platform for the 2022 presidential election in the balance.
Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party received what one of its own MPs called a “slap in the face” in regional and department elections on Sunday.
The president and his government failed to mobilise supporters, with an estimated 68% of voters shunning the polling stations – an unprecedented rate of abstention. If there was any consolation for the ruling party it was that exit polls suggested Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally had failed to garner its expected support.
Early results indicated that the main winners were various centre-right parties, including the main opposition Les Républicains, who were supported by 29.3% of voters. National Rally polled 19.1% and the Socialist party 16.5%. Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) was estimated to have won 10.9% of votes.
Aurore Bergé, an MP for LREM, said the result was a democratic “slap in the face”. “I’m not going to minimise what has happened,” Bergé told BFMTV.
In the Île de France, which includes Paris, the centre-right candidate Valérie Pécresse was in a strong position to retain control of the region.
In regional elections in 2015 just over 50% of French people failed to vote, a drop on just under 53.7% in 2010.
The vote was to elect new councils for France’s 13 mainland and one overseas regions as well as 96 departments. Regional councils have budgets running to billions of euros and are responsible for schools, transport and economic development. There were a total of 15,786 candidates standing for 4,108 seats. Winners are normally elected for a six-year term.
Le Pen did not run as a candidate but campaigned hard, particularly in rural areas where support for the far right remains high.