Centre-right Bertrand trumps Le Pen in Calais regional vote

Modesto Morganelli
Giugno 21, 2021

Marine Le Pen's Rassemblement National expressed frustration at a record low turnout, as the centre right made its first comeback at the ballot box since a disastrous showing in the 2017 presidential election and President Emmanuel Macron's party finished fifth.

The result is a clear setback for Le Pen's National Rally, though it came in second place in most regions, according to early official results and polling agency projections. The party dominated the first round of the last regional elections in 2015, but collapsed in the run-off as parties and voters banded together against it.

Le Pen's National Rally got 19% - nearly 10 points behind her score in the last election - and Macron's party took 11%.

On Monday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin described the results as a form of failure, although he added it was too soon to draw conclusions for the 2022 presidential vote, Reuters reported.

The regional elections are being closely watched for voter preferences ahead of next year's Presidential election.

Voters are choosing new councils for France's 13 mainland regions, plus one overseas, as well as 96 departments. It is hoping to win control of a region for the first time to boost her decade-long effort to legitimise a party long seen as an anti-democratic, anti-Semitic pariah.

It is hard to predict the ultimate victor here, or elsewhere, because of the complicated electoral system and the impact of tactical voting, which usually sees mainstream parties gang up to keep the far-right out of power.

In the event, he mustered just over 36 per cent - five percentage points lower than Marion Maréchal-Le Pen in 2015 - while his Right-wing rival and incumbent Renaud Muselier, did better than expected with just under 32 per cent.

Opinion surveys project Le Pen will poll highest in the first round of next year's presidential vote, propelled by a support base fed up with crime, threats to jobs from globalisation and a ruling elite viewed as out of touch with ordinary citizens.

Meanwhile, the projected abstention rate of between 66.1 and 68.6 percent - the highest for an election since at least 1958 - led to speculation about the causes, and introspection about the health of French democracy.

The lack of public campaigning due to Covid-19 restrictions appears to have played a part, as did the warm, summer weather that saw people snub the voting booth in favour of time with friends and family after months of lockdown.

"These are elections marked by the emergence from the pandemic and the indifference of French people towards the specific stakes of this election which they found hard to identify", Brice Teinturier, head of the Ipsos polling group in France, told France Inter radio.

Ms Le Pen called the low turnout "a civic disaster that deformed the electoral reality of the country, and produces a misleading vision of the current political forces".

One of his MPs, Aurore Bergé, said it was a "slap in the face".

Parties that win more than 10 percent of votes on Sunday will advance to the runoff on 27 June, unless they win outright with more than 50 percent in the first round.

"We've unlocked the jaws of the National Front in order to smash them here", Bertrand said, referring to Le Pen's party by its previous name.

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