in Hauts-de-France, Xavier Bertrand relishes his surprise score and is already thinking about the presidential election

Xavier Bertrand arrives for his speech to the press at the Jean-Vilar theater in Saint-Quentin (Hauts-de-France), on June 18, 2021. AIMÉE THIRION FOR “THE WORLD”

And the town hall chime strikes eight times. Immediately after, Xavier Bertrand appears, in a living room of the Jean-Vilar theater, in front of the town hall of Saint-Quentin (Aisne), his electoral stronghold for twenty years. The outgoing president (ex-Les Républicains) of Hauts-de-France wants to be the first to speak to comment on the results of the first round of the regional: against all forecasts, which gave it lower and in a duel with the National Rally (RN ), the former minister of Jacques Chirac comes far ahead, with 41.39% of the vote, far ahead of his far-right opponent, Sébastien Chenu, second with 24.37% of the vote.

Xavier Bertrand's speech to the press at the Jean-Vilar theater in Saint-Quentin (Hauts-de-France), June 18, 2021.

Xavier Bertrand's speech to the press at the Jean-Vilar theater in Saint-Quentin (Hauts-de-France), June 18, 2021.

Xavier Bertrand’s speech to the press at the Jean-Vilar theater in Saint-Quentin (Hauts-de-France), June 18, 2021. AIMÉE THIRION FOR “THE WORLD”

In six years, the outgoing president, who came behind Marine Le Pen in 2015, with 25% of the vote against 40.6%, has reversed the trend. “The FN retreated because we have shown that through work, commitment and coherence, politics was not dead, and that it still had a meaning, that of serving to make life better”, he launches, before slipping away.

Read also Regional elections 2021: results region by region

For Xavier Bertrand, who conditioned his candidacy for the 2022 presidential election on his victory on Sunday, June 27, this score is a divine surprise, even if the abstention, massive as everywhere in France, casts a shadow on the performance.

Campaign posters at the entrance to the Jean-Jacques-Rousseau polling station, in Hénin-Beaumont (Hauts-de-France), June 20, 2021.

Campaign posters at the entrance to the Jean-Jacques-Rousseau polling station, in Hénin-Beaumont (Hauts-de-France), June 20, 2021. CYRIL BITTON / DIVERGENCE FOR THE WORLD

“Something strange is happening, I have the counting of the first ballots, the scores are abnormal, I’ve never seen that!” “, he confides on the phone to a relative, shortly before 7 p.m. “It’s a real surprise”, admits the vice-president of the regional council, Christophe Coulon, who did not expect to see the outgoing list “Exceed 40%”, while that led by the ecologist Karima Delli, which brings together the entire left, “rebellious” included, is 18.99%, one point more than the socialist list six years ago.

Snub for the majority

As she had announced, the MEP stands, while Xavier Bertrand had been elected with the votes of the left in 2015 – the list of Pierre de Saintignon had withdrawn, by virtue of the “republican front”. “The left and environmentalists are back in our region. (…) We are the useful vote for the climate and for jobs », justified Mme Delli, noting that there is ” no risk ” that the extreme right takes hold of the region.

The candidate of La République en Marche (LRM), Laurent Pietraszewski, will not have this possibility: with less than 10% of the vote, the Secretary of State in charge of pensions, who nevertheless aligned five ministers on his list, including the very media Eric Dupond-Moretti (justice) and Gérald Darmanin (interior), can not maintain. A snub for the majority and for Emmanuel Macron, three days after the latter moved to Aisne. “Macron would have liked to induct me as the dangerous candidate who had to be eliminated, he would not have done it otherwise, says Xavier Bertrand. It is a matter of political sense. Intelligence does not replace experience. “

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