The majority of French people do not seem interested in regional elections. After a record abstention in the first round of June 20, 66%, and despite the Government’s social media campaigns, things barely improve in the second round, which takes place this Sunday and in which the attention is focuses on two regions.
One is Île-de-France, the Paris region, where a broad left-wing alliance, although with little chance of winning, according to polls, appears as a model for a union, currently unlikely, on a national scale in the presidential elections. 2022. The other region is Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA), where the effectiveness of the Republican front, the union of all parties against the extreme right of the National Regrouping (RN), will be tested. Polls predict a tie between Marine Le Pen’s party and the traditional right-wing candidate.
When schools close at 8:00 p.m. and the first estimates are published, look at the abstention figures and the results in those regions.
By noon, 12.66% of the electorate had voted, according to the French Interior Ministry. A week ago, 12.22% had voted at the same time. The improvement is anecdotal. Abstention in the first round was the highest in any election in France in the Fifth Republic, founded in 1958, except for the referendum that in 2000 shortened the presidential term from seven to five years. The figure has sparked a debate on why. Lack of interest in elections in which many voters were not clear about what was at stake or were not well aware of the powers of the regions? Or a symptom of a deeper disaffection of a considerable part of the population, a “democratic secession” as some commentators put it?
The left in Paris
The socialist Lionel Jospin, who was head of the French government between 1997 and 2002, supports the union of ecologists, socialists, communists and the populist and radical left for the second round in Île-de-France, the Paris region. Manuel Valls, a former socialist who served between 2014 and 2016, has announced that he will vote for the right-wing candidate Valérie Pécresse, current president of the region.
The positions of two former prime ministers such as Jospin and Valls reflect the schism between the former leaders of the Socialist Party (PS) over the alliance of the moderate left with La Francia Insumisa (LFI), the party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, linked to Podemos in Spain. For some, it is a natural union between parties of progressive sensibility and a reissue of the so-called plural left with which Jospin ruled the country two decades ago. For others, it is a dangerous coalition with an extremist party, an unnatural pact between what Valls, who is no longer a member of the PS, called years ago “the irreconcilable left”: a Europeanist, secular and liberal, and another Eurosceptic. , sovereignist and, according to this point of view, complacent with Islamism.
“Given the danger of those who have turned their backs on the Republic, there is no need to doubt,” said Valls this week, who will soon leave his current position as municipal councilor in Barcelona, on the Europe 1 radio chain, where he announced his vote for favor of Pécresse.
Jospin, on the other hand, has declared that he will vote for the leftist list, headed by the secretary of Europe Ecology The Greens (EELV), Julien Bayou, and which includes the deputy of LFI de Mélenchon, Clémentine Autain. “Tomorrow, like yesterday,” Jospin said, “the future will be built around plural majorities committed to republican values, the ecological transition and against social inequalities.” Former President François Hollande has indicated that he supports all candidacies where there are socialists, including that of Île-de-France.
A successful union of the left in Ìle-de-France could serve as a model for the presidential elections of 2022. The differences between the moderate left of the PS and other groups, and the populist left of the LFI – on the EU, capitalism or the secularism – and personal wars between ambitious leaders complicate the repetition of the regional experiment on a national scale. Mélenchon has already declared himself a candidate. A poll published on Île-de-France by the OpinonWay institute predicts Pécresse will win with 43% of the vote compared to 31% for Bayou’s leftist list.
The far right in the Marseille region
The other key region this Sunday is Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA). A victory for the RN candidate, Thierry Mariani, over the current president, Renaud Muselier, of Los Republicanos (LR), would give the government of a region, for the first time, to Le Pen’s party. It would also make up for the poor result of the far right in the first round, where it was only the most voted force in PACA, compared to six regions in the previous elections, in 2015.
In Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur a republican front or cordon sanitaire has been formed. The left-wing candidate, Jean-Laurent Félizia, qualified for the second round, withdrew so as not to disperse the vote against the extreme right and declared his support for Muselier. Whether it will work remains to be seen. A poll gave Muselier the winner with 51% of the vote; another gives a tie at 50%.