French right-wing extremists crushed in regional elections

PARIS (AP) – Mainstream candidates have stabbed France’s far-right in Sunday’s regional elections, dashed hopes of gaining control of a region for the first time and slowed their momentum ahead of next year’s presidential contest.

The chairman of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen, quickly admitted that the far-right anti-immigration party failed to win any of the 12 regions of mainland France. She immediately looked forward to next year’s presidential election and said it “seems more than ever to be the election that will enable change in politics and politicians.”

Le Pen complained that the organization of the two voting rounds on consecutive weekends had been “catastrophic and unpredictable”. Still, the National Rally’s appearance in Sunday’s crucial runoff election indicated that the party would remain an abomination for many voters. It received no more than 20% of the vote nationwide, calculated the polling institute Ifop, and lagged behind both the mainstream right and the combined selection of the green and left candidates.

Most notably, the National Rally in the Southeast, the region seen as its best chance for a breakthrough in the election of regional councils, was beaten all around.

As in previous national and local elections, voters are putting political differences aside to come together to prevent the National Rally from breaking through.

The mainstream candidates crowed that they had dealt painful blows to the far-right party, previously called the National Front. Neither region changed camp, with the right retaining the seven previously and the left still in control of the other five, according to official results and polling forecasts.

On the right, winner Xavier Bertrand praised that the National Rallye in his region, the Hauts-de-France in the north, was not only “stopped”, but “we have withdrawn it strongly”.

Another winner on the right, Laurent Wauquiez, said the right-wing extremist had “no room to flourish” in his Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.

Although focused on local issues and characterized by a record low turnout, the regional vote was examined as a test of whether the National Rally is gaining acceptance. Le Pen has spent a decade shaking off the extremist reputation that has cast off many French voters in the party’s former guise as the Front National. The party’s renewed failure to win a region suggested that Le Pen and her party would remain inedible to many ahead of the 2022 presidential election.

But voter interest was also subdued at best, with only a third participating. Among the few who have cast their vote, some complained that young voters in particular appeared to be wasting their last option before the 2022 presidential election.

“It’s shameful,” said Suzette Lefèvre, a pensioner who voted in Saint-Quentin in northern France. “Our parents fought for us for this and people are not following suit.”

Philippe Corbonnois, another pensioner who came to Saint-Quentin, said that young people “may not believe in politics”.

A record low turnout of 33% in the first ballot on June 20 proved particularly damaging to the National Rally and Le Pen’s hopes for a regional breakthrough.

Polls showed that Le Pen’s party had some momentum. But that was not confirmed at the ballot box. An important question in the runoff election had been whether voters would unite to keep Le Pen’s party in power as in the past, rejected by its anti-immigration and anti-EU populism and racist, anti-Semitic image, that clung to the Front National, which was founded by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The party dominated the first round of the last regional elections in 2015, but also collapsed in the runoff election when parties and voters united against it.

Comments are closed.