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A signpost reading "Make love, not hate. Stop National Rally" in French

France’s second round of regional elections: Macron and Le Pen suffer a defeat

France’s second round of regional elections: Macron and Le Pen suffer a defeat

Despite the low voter turnout of about 27%, France re-elects most of its regional presidents

Mainstream candidates delivered a stinging setback on both France’s far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally) and La République En Marche! in the second round of the regional elections on 27 June 2021. Voter turnout was at a record low, yet both parties, which are propped up as the main contenders in France’s presidential race next year, failed to take a single region.  

While the voter turnout was troublingly low, at around 27%, the majority of voters renewed their confidence for the next six years in the presidents in place since 2015. Only three overseas regions turned to the left: La Réunion, Martinique and Guyana.

The fight for Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur

The region Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur (PACA) was one of the most likely to ultimately elect the far-right National Rally, but Le Pen’s party was soundly defeated. Exit polls suggested that the Les Républicains candidate, Renaud Muselier, had polled a convincing 56.6% of the votes against the RN’s Thierry Mariani’s 43.4%.

This is a bitter disappointment both for the party and Marine Le Pen, as she claimed local democracy was suffering a “profound crisis” and criticised the alliances made between her political rivals to prevent a far-right victory.

Considering the low voter turnout and the fact that supporters of more extreme political candidates tend to swarm the polling stations, this result is an upset.

Le Pen’s party was supposed to have a majority in at least five regions, according to pre-election polling, however, they ended up on top in the first round only in PACA, and by a narrow margin at that.

At the same time, the traditional “republican front” alliance held in the region. This is the alliance of rival parties from across the political aisle aiming to prevent the far-right candidate from gaining any political power. In the case of PACA, this even included the withdrawal of the Socialist party and left-wing alliance candidate.

This may not be a forecast of the presidential race

Because this is the last election before the presidential race next year, it is very tempting to extrapolate some general tendencies about what is to come. However, analysts warn that, because of the low voter turnout, this election should not be taken as a portrait of national opinion.

Macron’s party, La République En Marche! (LREM) was founded after France’s last regional elections - this was its first time running in this format, and it failed to win a single region. Despite sending several ministers to campaign and Macron himself embarking on a nationwide tour – that saw him slapped by an onlooker at one point – in some regions LREM did not muster the required 10% to even make it to round two.

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