In the first round of regional elections in France – early results indicate both President Emmanuel Macron and his opponent Marine Le Pen will fail to make the gains they were hoping for.
Mr Macron’s centrist party is projected to gain around 10% of the vote – just enough to take part in the second round next weekend. Ms Le Pen’s far-right National Rally has also fallen well short of expectations. Both parties are significantly trailing behind the conservative party, Les Républicains.
One of Mr Macron’s MPs, Aurore Bergé, described her party’s poor performance as “a democratic slap in the face for all of us”.
Ms Le Pen is not running as a candidate but she has been leading the campaign. Her National Rally party was expected to top Sunday’s first round of polling and for the first time win at least one region. Instead it is now predicted to come a poor second.
She described the record-low voter turnout, a projected 66% abstention, as a “civic disaster” – blaming the results on the government’s inability to inspire faith in political institutions. She said:
“Let’s face it, the results were marked by a torrential and also historic abstention of two-thirds of the electorate due to the mistrust of an electoral system, which leaves voters with the feeling that nothing can change, that everything has been confiscated”
This is the first time President Macron’s party has taken part in regional elections. La République en Marche did not exist the last time they were held in 2015,
so this election is being deeply scrutinised because the next presidential elections are less than a year away – and politicians are hoping to gain an early insight into the mood of voters.