France’s trial run before electing a new president: far-right domination? New low turnout?

Less than a year before the French presidential election, the first round of regional elections was held in France this Sunday. The election was held at a time when the New Crown epidemic was raging, so there was no large-scale canvassing by the various factions.

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. for the regional elections, which were postponed for three months due to the crisis, with two rounds of voting scheduled for June 20 and 27, respectively. This time, some 48 million French people are being encouraged by the government to go to the polls to elect representatives for six-year terms in 13 regions in metropolitan France and two overseas regions in charge of areas such as public transportation, universities and high schools, or regional development.

However, according to predictions by pollsters, the public should not be particularly enthusiastic about voting when it comes to regional elections. For example, the abstention rate in the first round in 2015 was close to 51 percent, and this year’s rate could soar to 60 percent. By noon today, only 12,22% of voters had cast their ballots. However, this regional election is seen as a test of public opinion for the presidential election because of its proximity to next year’s presidential election, and the parties are taking it seriously.

The dueling finalists in the 2017 presidential election, the far-right Marine Le Pen, are in the ascendant, especially as abstention rates tend to be high, and her chances of winning are much higher. Meanwhile, her rival, Macron, and Macron’s team are still very young, without any real political base, and at a disadvantage.

Pierre Lefebvre, a professor of political science at the Sorbonne University in France, analyzed that the higher the abstention rate of voters, the greater the winning record of the extremist parties. Some research institutes also say that Macron did not pull particularly far from the far right in that 2017 showdown, while among the few direct contacts with the public, there were many tensions, including being slapped in the face. Another reason why the prospects of Macron’s centrist Republican Movement party do not look very promising: the party was founded only four years ago and therefore did not exist at the time of the 2015 regional elections. In addition the party faces disillusionment with Macron’s policies from parts of the population, including rural voters who supported the yellow undershirts.

After the 2017 presidential election, the French left is divided, the ruling party is still young, and the right is unable to unify its attitudes on how to treat the far right, all of which opens up the possibility of a far-right victory. And this regional election, AFP pointed out that the far right is very likely to create a situation in France for the first time to rule several regions, rather than being a companion to other traditional major parties, as in the past.