For more than a week, all eyes have been on Marine Le Pen and his Rassemblement National (RN): will it finally come to power in one French region or perhaps even several? Opinion polls predicted that the National Front would win the election – a first for the party, which would also serve as an important springboard for next April’s presidential election.
Two rounds of voting later, only a few of those high expectations were left. After the first round, last Sunday, Le Pen’s victory seemed to be restricted to the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. But judging by the first results of the polls, the RN lost again to the current regional president Renaud Muselier, who is supported by the team of Les Républicains and Macrons La République en Marche (LREM).
In advance, the regional elections were described as an important indicator of the struggle for the presidency. Until now, it was expected that this would again lead to a duel between President Macron and Marine Le Pen. This was reflected in the regional election campaign: although the regions did not have any powers in the field of security and immigration, it was precisely these two national themes that prevailed.
But instead of a first show of strength, the regional elections essentially became a defeat for both the National Rally and LREM. As expected, LREM also could not achieve victory in any of the territories.
Remarkably, President Macron couldn’t even vote for his party on Sunday. In the northern region of Hauts-de-France, where Macron was to vote, LREM was already eliminated in the first round of regional elections. The same is true of Occitanie in the south, where Prime Minister Jean Castix was forced to vote for a rival after LREM was eliminated in the first round.
Indeed, President Macron may have helped his future opponent saddle up on Sunday. In Hauts-de-France, Xavier Bertrand won re-election as regional president on his own list. Bertrand was up against a candidate from the National Rally, the party Macron wants to cut off at all costs. Moreover, the famous Bertrand has previously said that he will run for re-election in the presidential elections in April next year.
Five years after its founding, LREM has yet to take root at the local level. The party also achieved poor results in last year’s municipal elections. The new defeat at the regional level raises the question of the future of LREM.
Macron himself had previously said that he did not want to draw national conclusions from the results of the regional elections. But with these findings, this is an “absolutely untenable position”, one of his ministers told the French newspaper. Parisian. Mainly because of the loss to the party, but also because of the significantly lower turnout. And the minister declared anonymously that no one learned any lessons even at that time, giving the French the feeling that they did not understand their double warning.
It’s hard to explain exactly what this warning means – precisely because the turnout has exceeded already low expectations. Also in the second round, one in three French people went to the polls.
But with the presidential election looming, there is speculation within LREM about whether the party should merge into a broader movement. For example, through further cooperation with the parties that now support the president, such as the Center Party, the Democratic Movement.
For the “traditional” parties from the left and right, the Socialist Party and Les Républicains, Sunday’s result was considered hopeful. In all regions, the incumbent regional presidents were re-elected, and they mainly come from these parties. The right has already said that the presidential election cards can be changed again. According to Xavier Bertrand, a former member of Les Républicains, it will be clear to everyone after today that this battle will not be a duel, but a three-way battle.
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