The turnout in the first round of regional and departmental elections in France stood at 12.22% on Sunday at midday, four points less than the regional elections of December 2015 (16.27%) and more than five points of less than the departmental of March 2015 (17.97%), according to figures from the Ministry of the Interior.
This weak mobilization confirms the fears of a massive abstention during this double ballot placed ten months before the presidential election. The abstention record dates from 2015 (53.67%) for a first round of regional and 2011 (55.68%) for a first round of departmental, which were then called cantonal.
Some 48 million voters are called to the polls until 6 p.m., 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. depending on the municipality. Even though the Covid-19 epidemic is in sharp decline, a strict health protocol has been put in place and voters must respect a safe distance, wear a mask and use hydroalcoholic gel. The second round will take place on Sunday June 27.
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Conquering far right and record abstention in sight
The National Rally (RN, far right) of the 2017 presidential finalist, Marine Le Pen, is on the rise, especially as abstention tends to play into the game of extremes, while the party of President Emmanuel Macron, The Republic on the march, very young and without any real territorial base, is not in a favorable position.
“The more abstention rises and the more, as a percentage of votes cast, the extreme offers on the political spectrum have to gain, “notes the political scientist of the Sorbonne Pierre Lefébure.” Especially the RN with a very motivated and white-hot electorate by electoral material which everywhere highlights the photo of Marine Le Pen one year before the presidential election “, he adds.
Opposite: a very young presidential party, devoid of outgoing candidates, an exploded left, without leadership since 2017, and a right divided on the attitude to adopt vis-à-vis the RN.
Under these conditions, the National Gathering does indeed aim to break the Republican front which had blocked its way in 2015.
For the first time, he could lead several regions, favored by the proportional system which gives a bonus of 25% of the seats to the list collecting the highest number of votes.
He is given the lead in the first round in six regions, notably in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur where the extreme right has been an important player for more than thirty years.
“It is not so much the progression in voice that seems striking, but the increase in the RN’s chances of victory.“compared to the 2015 regionals, Bernard Sananès, president of the Elabe Institute, told AFP.
The party is no longer the foil that it was, in a political landscape that has stirred up at will in recent months the themes that make up its business – secularism, immigration … For 51% of the French, a victory for the RN to regional would not be “a danger to democracy”.
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Something to worry about Emmanuel Macron, even if he is not officially a candidate for 2022, he is already closely followed by his former opponent of 2017, even if“it is still necessary to take enormous tweezers to draw national and presidential conclusions from the regional”, warns Antoine Bristielle, director of the Opinion Observatory at the Jean Jaurès Foundation.
In 2015, the right and the left had thus divided the regions but had failed to qualify for the second round of the presidential election, 15 months later.
And this year the ballot, coupled with departmental elections, opens at the end of a very atypical campaign: health measures prevented meetings and door-to-door, the candidates surveyed the markets, leaflets in hand but masks on the face … The rare reunion with voters was punctuated by incidents in a country where social tensions seem to have been exacerbated by the months of health crisis.
At least three political figures were flourished while the head of state himself was slapped in the face.