The French go to the polls today in the first round of regional and departmental elections with the fear that the extreme right will conquer one or more regions. The second round will take place next Sunday. These elections are seen as a dress rehearsal before the 2022 presidential elections, in which, according to the polls, the president, Emmanuel Macron, is expected to face the leader of the extreme right, Marine Le Pen, in the second round. . The two were already direct rivals in 2017.
For this reason, many politicians and analysts will make a national reading of the results. The Republicans and the Socialist Party, traditionally with strong roots in the regions, will try to save the furniture in the second round thanks to the alliances. Conservatives have ruled since 2015 in seven territories and the left in five.
The Republic on the March, Macron’s party, did not exist when the previous regional elections were held six years ago. Today he presents several ministers and secretaries of state on the lists, but according to the polls he would not be able to win in any region, but he could be key when it comes to forming alliances with other parties in the second round. The opposition has criticized that Macron has decided to do a ‘tour de France’ of the regions. They consider that it is already in the campaign for 2022.
“If the National Regrouping obtains a region, that will change the dynamics for the 2022 presidential elections,” said Brice Teinturier, deputy general director of Ipsos, in an interview on France 2. Le Pen has tried in recent years to demonize his training before the French public opinion to transform it into a ruling party. And judging from the polls, it looks like he’s succeeding.
The regional vote can also serve as a springboard to the Elysee Palace for politicians with presidential ambitions. Three candidates from the right – Xavier Bertrand, in Altos de Francia; Valérie Pécresse, in the Paris region; and Laurent Wauquiez in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes – hope to be re-elected as presidents of their respective regions, which would increase their chances of winning the conservative presidential candidacy.
Although regional and departmental elections are held on the same day, all eyes will be on what happens in the regions, with less power than the autonomous communities in Spain, but with competences in matters of public transport, secondary education and territorial planning. .
“Danger to democracy”
One in two French people (51%) thinks that a victory by the National Regrouping in one or several regions would not be “a danger to democracy”, according to an Ifop poll published this week by ‘Le Journal du Dimanche’. At the time when his father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, led the National Front, 80% of the French considered him to be a threat to democracy.
The former Le Pen National Front leads the polls in the first round in six regions (Brittany, New Aquitaine, Occitania, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Burgundy-Franche-Comté and Center Loire Valley) and aims to win the presidency of at least one of them. Where the far right has the best chance is Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA), in the southeast, which includes cities such as Nice and Marseille.
In previous elections, parties have tended to ally and form a “republican front” in the second round to prevent the far-right candidate from winning. For example, in the 2015 regionals, the National Front was individually the most voted in the first round (27.73% of the votes) and won in six regions, but failed to govern in any. It remains to be seen whether this Republican front remains standing or falls apart in these elections.
The ghost of a record abstention hovers over the polls
These regional elections scheduled for last March were postponed due to the pandemic. Despite the fact that in France it is no longer mandatory to wear a mask outdoors, voters will have to wear it to go to the polls. Hydroalcoholic gel will be available in schools and a distance of 1.50 meters must be maintained between voters, who will also be required to carry their own pen. Therefore, several polls predict a record abstention of about 60% in the first round. Generally, the Gauls are more encouraged to vote in the second.
Only the lists that have obtained at least 10% of the ballots will go to the final phase of these elections, although mergers are allowed between candidates that have obtained at least 5%.
Some 48 million citizens will be able to elect the 1,757 members of the assemblies of the thirteen regions and five overseas territories, as well as the 2,028 members of the interdepartmental hemicycles.