Macron and Le Pen Flop in Regional Poll as French Stay Home

President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen both look set for disappointing results in France’s regional elections.

The president’s LREM movement took less than 7% in the race to renew 13 metropolitan councils on Sunday, while Le Pen’s National Rally got 20% of the nationwide vote, and is set to once again fail to win any region, exit polls showed.

The right won 38% nationwide and left parties -- including the greens, the Socialists and the far-left France Unbowed party of Jean Luc Melenchon -- garnered 34.5%, according to an Ifop poll.

So far, surveys suggest that incumbents -- mostly from the traditional right, but also the left -- will keep their regional seats. Turnout was at an all-time low for local elections, with only one-third of registered voters estimated to have bothered to show up.

Local polls don’t usually translate into national politics. But as the last nationwide election before the presidential race in April 2022, it is being followed closely for any insight into what voters are thinking. What it has indicated is that the France’s traditional movements are holding up, four years after Macron imploded the two-party system with his centrist run.

Le Pen has a lot riding on this vote because winning even one region for the first time would have helped her convince the French she can be trusted in power. Instead, her candidate in the Marseille region, the one who stood the best chances of winning, looks set to lose to the conservative incumbent. Overall, her party is on track to do worse than in the last regional election in 2015, when she got 27%.

Macron’s party fared poorly in the first round and isn’t expected to win any region on its own, a repeat of last year’s failure to secure any major cities in the municipal elections. The dismal showing could discourage grass roots supporters.

Valerie Pecresse looked set to win populous and economically important Paris region. She could now be a presidential hopeful, along with another incumbent right-wing head of a regional council Xavier Bertrand, who’s set to win the poorer region of Hauts-de-France, and Laurent Wauquiez in the region around Lyon.

After the election, Bertrand said Sunday’s outcome had given him the “strength to go and meet all the French people.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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