Paris France – France’s far-right National Rally Party failed to win the victory predicted by many pundits and opinion polls in the first round of the regional elections on Sunday. This was a serious setback for Marina Le Pen, because she hopes to be in the next year. Consolidate the legitimacy of her party before her presidential election.
Although regional elections in France usually do not have a major impact, analysts are closely watching this year’s elections to find clues to key votes next year.
Pre-election polls predict that national gatherings may account for half of the country’s 12 mainland regions.
But the far-right party ended up taking a narrow lead in only one game-Provence-Alpes-Southern Côte d’Azur.
Overall, the national rally only won 19% of the nation’s votes-worse than its performance in the 2015 regional elections.
“Our voters have not come out,” Le Pen said on Sunday, urging supporters to “mobilize their efforts” for the runoff next weekend.
Jean-Yves Camus, a political scientist who specializes in the extreme right, told Al Jazeera: “Those who plan to vote for the national assembly basically stay at home.”
Voter turnout on Sunday hit a record low, with only one-third of voters participating.
Camus warned that comparing regional elections to presidential elections with much higher turnouts would be misleading.
Nearly 78% of voters participated in the 2017 presidential election, when Le Pen entered the final round and eventually lost to Emmanuel Macron.
Since then, the 52-year-old has worked tirelessly to “eliminate” the image of a far-right party in order to attract more mainstream voters.
The party was founded in 1972 by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and has long been accused of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia.
Le Pen publicly distanced herself from her father, who was fined several times for denying the massacre.
In 2018, she changed the name from National Front to National Assembly, calling the old label a “mental barrier” for voters.
Since then, the image of the party in the eyes of some people has changed.
A study published in April by left-leaning think tank Jean Jaures found that in April 2021, 35% of people had a negative view of the party, compared with 50% in 2019.
“This is a complete evolution,” Max-Valentin Robert, one of the co-authors of the study, told Al Jazeera.
The report also predicts that Le Pen has the first chance to defeat Macron in 2022.
However, to do this, it believes that she must win the support of most mainstream conservative voters.
If Sunday’s regional elections provide any clues, it is that Le Pen has not yet wooed these voters.
Macron “No Party”
The mainstream conservative party Les Republicains performed better than expected, winning 29% of the national vote.
Xavier Bertrand, an incumbent who gained an unexpected health lead in the Hauts-de-France region, told supporters: “We have liberated this region from the National Front.”
Bertrand, who was initially predicted to be evenly matched, will also run for president next year and won more than 41% of the vote, while the far-right candidate Sebastién Chenu won only 24% of the vote.
Macron’s centrist party, La République en Marche, withdrew from Sunday’s first round of voting with a particularly disastrous result. It only won 10% of the country’s votes and was not ahead of any of the 12 regions in the mainland.
“Macron’s problem is that he is likely to be re-elected next year, but his problem is that he does not have a party,” Camus said.
Macron and Le Pen are preparing to re-take the 2017 vote, and both have the opportunity to enter the second round again.
In recent months, both have tried to attract the same conservative voters.
By leaping to the right, Macron’s party was accused of helping to eliminate the extreme right and its hardline stance on immigration, Islam, secularism, and crime.
At the same time, in recent months, the issue of identity has played an increasingly important role in the French political arena, discussing the influence of the so-called “Islamic Left”-a way of linking Muslim activists with the left to promote certain Conspiracy theory of an agenda. – Efforts to ban gender-inclusive language in French classrooms.
Looking ahead, after the recent defeat, both Le Pen and Macron urged voters to go to the polling station for the runoff next weekend and warned of the danger of abstention.
“To let abstentions win is to let democracy fail,” Prime Minister Jean Castex tweeted Monday morning, adding that voting is the “responsibility” of every citizen.