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Macron and Le Pen Parties Both Battered in French Regional Elections


PARIS. It seemed inevitable: another clash in the French presidential election next year between President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing anti-immigrant National Cohesion Party.

But after Sunday’s nationwide regional elections, the second round The results of the 2017 elections look much less confident as Macron’s centrist party, La République en Marche, and Ms. Le Pen’s party failed to win in any of France’s 13 continental regions.

The defeat was especially devastating for Madame Le Pen. She portrayed regional elections as the harbinger of her coming to power.

In the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, in the region where the National Rally won. first round of voting A week ago, center-right candidate Renaud Muselier defeated the National Assembly candidate by a fair margin with about 57 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

A national rally has never ruled the French region, and on Sunday, Ms. Le Pen accused all parties of forming “unnatural alliances” and “doing everything to prevent us from demonstrating to the French our ability to rule regional executive power.”

Stanislas Guerini, CEO of Macron’s party, said the results “disappointed the presidential majority.”

They weren’t surprised either.

Since assembling his party as a vehicle for his ascent in 2017, Macron has had little interest in her fate, relying instead on his personal authority and the aura of the presidency. The party, often known simply as En Marche, has never been able to establish itself regionally or locally, despite controlling parliament.

The voter turnout was very low. Only about 33 percent of French people voted, up from 55.6 percent in 2015, a clear sign of usual dissatisfaction with politics and fatigue after the country’s long struggle with the coronavirus pandemic.

Such low participation and the fact that there are still 10 months before the presidential elections make extrapolation of results across regions dangerous. However, this marked a shift. The headline in the left-wing newspaper Libération above the image of Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen read: “2022: what if it weren’t them?”

If it is not them, it could be Xavier Bertrand, the center-right presidential candidate who is the main winner today.

A serious former insurance agent in the northern town of Saint-Quentin, Mr. Bertrand, who has already announced that he will run for president next year, easily won the Haute-de-France region with about 53 percent of the vote.

His victory was achieved despite the strenuous efforts of Mr. Macron and Ms. Le Pen to impress the region that is Mr. Bertrand’s stronghold.

“This result gives me the strength to go out and meet all the French,” said Mr Bertrand. “There is one prerequisite for the restoration of our country: the restoration of order and respect.”

Mr. Bertrand, who served as Minister of Health and then Minister of Labor in the government of Nicolas Sarkozy, did not go to one of the elite schools in France and likes to portray himself as sensitive to the concerns of the French working class. He is widely considered an effective politician with ambition. Another former minister in the Sarkozy government, Rashida Dati, once said of Mr. Bertrand, “He is the one with the most hunger.”

Although he left the main center-right party Les Républicains a few years ago, Mr. Bertrand remains a member of their conservative family and harbors an inner hatred of the National Rally of Ms. Le Pen, which he insists on his former name. National Front.

In a sense, the elections heralded a resurgence of traditional parties: Les Républicains on the right and socialists on the left. The leftist coalition, usually including socialists, held power in the five regions they already ruled.

Security has become a top concern for the French ahead of elections next year after a string of Islamist terrorist attacks over the past nine months. This created difficulties for the scattered French left, which seemed to have few security answers and no presidential candidate to rally around. But regional elections have shown that it is too early to abandon the left.

For Mr Macron, who embarked on a nationwide tour to reconnect with the French people in the aftermath of the worst of the pandemic, the results suggest that his recent focus on getting the right-wing votes that Ms. Le Pen may have won could be revisited. …

Presidential elections are taking place more widely than it seemed. The French are more dissatisfied than they thought. The same thing – and the competition between Mr. Macron and Miss Le Pen in 2022 would be just that – perhaps they are not what they want after all.

Aurelien Breeden and Daphne Angles made reporting.

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