Candidates from traditional parties this Sunday imposed a painful setback for the far right in France, which has not gained control of a region for the first time, according to election projections.
According to polling company Ifop, the far-right União Nacional (RN, in its original acronym) party will have just surpassed 20% of the votes nationwide, behind the dominant right, but also the candidates of the ‘green’ parties and left, with combined results.
The polls also point out that the RN was defeated in southwestern France, a region that was seen as the best opportunity to guarantee a decisive victory in the elections for the regional councils, according to the AP.
Confirming these results, the RN’s failure to win any of the 12 regions of mainland France threatens to slow the momentum of its leader, Marine Le Pen, in the campaign for the 2022 presidential elections.
One of the candidates that projections point to as the winner of the traditional right, Xavier Bertrand, stressed that the National Union was not only “stopped” in his region, Hauts-de-France, in the north, but also “retrenched”.
Although focused on local issues, and marked by low turnout, regional elections were seen as a test of whether the anti-immigration party was gaining acceptance before the presidential ones.
RN leader Le Pen has spent the last decade trying to shake off her reputation as an extremist, and the fact of not securing any region in these elections demonstrates that the party remains unappealing to many.
Polls suggested that Le Pen’s party would have some legitimate drive and ambition to win at least one region.
However, a low turnout in the first round, of only 33%, will also have caused apathy in the supporters of the RN.
In only one region, in the Southeast, did the party finish first in the first round, with candidates for the remaining regions relegated to second place or lower, and many abandoning hopes of winning in the second round.
In the second round it may have been the same as in other votes, with voters and parties uniting to keep Le Pen’s party out of power.
The RN had also dominated regional elections in 2015, but in the second round the intention changed after parties and voters united to defeat them.