Le Pen hopes the French regional vote will give him a taste for power
French voters went to the polls on Sunday for regional elections that could give Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally a taste of power ahead of next year’s national elections, when she is expected to be the main challenger to outgoing President Emmanuel Macron.
Opinion polls suggest the RN would take the lead in six of France’s 13 European regions in the first round of the ballot, although bargaining between parties before the second round on June 27 likely excluded the party from power in all countries. except the south. Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region.
However, the success on the Côte d’Azur in the second round, if it is obtained under the candidate of RN Thierry Mariani, would be the first time that the anti-immigration party has won a French region.
“This Sunday you will have the historic chance to create the change of government that the country so badly needs,” Le Pen said. said on twitter after campaign meetings across France.
With the left weakened and the center-right now divided between traditional Republicans and Macron supporters, Le Pen could well appear in the final results even if the RN’s share in the overall vote in the first round is no more than 28 % it reached in 2015.
Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe of the Eurasia consultancy group, said that a regional victory for Le Pen would be “an important event in French political history, the first time that the far right has controlled something bigger than a city of medium size since the end of the Vichy regime sympathizing with the Nazis in 1944 ”.
Running a region like Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, with more than 4 million inhabitants and large cities like Marseille and Nice, would give Le Pen “unprecedented opportunities to stand out and stir up trouble in the region. the next 10 months before the first round. presidential elections ”- and sound a warning that a Le Pen victory over Macron in 2022 was no longer inconceivable, he said.
The regional and departmental councils the French vote for have limited powers, mainly over transport and schools, and turnout is expected to be low despite the importance of the vote as an indicator of national political trends.
The Ipsos poll group predicted turnout to only reach around 41 percent. “The French have completely other things in mind,” Brice Teinturier of Ipsos told a webinar last week. “We are emerging from the pandemic. . . and the economic outlook is improving a lot.
But low turnout, and polls showing voters more concerned about crime, immigration and unemployment than Covid-19, should help Le Pen make his mark.
“Abstention helps the voting blocs which are the most motivated, that is to say generally the extremes,” François Bayrou, an ally of Macron and leader of the MoDem party, told LCI television.