Skip to main content

Le Pen’s Far-right Party Suffers Blow in French Regional Elections

Rassemblement National fails to win region in south of France stronghold after rivals form ‘Republican front’

Marine Le Pen said local democracy was suffering a ‘profound crisis’ and criticised the alliances made to stop her party winning.,Ian Langsdon/EPA

Marine Le Pen’s far-right party has suffered a serious electoral blow when it failed to win a regional election in its stronghold in the south of France.

The Rassemblement National (RN) had pinned its last chances on taking the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region (PACA) after emerging victorious from last week’s first-round vote, although by a small margin.

In a brief but defiant post-election speech, Le Pen added that the abstention rate showed a “discontentment” among electors that was a “major signal for all the political class and society”.

While many saw these elections as a warm-up for next year’s presidential election, neither the supposed 2022 leadership frontrunners – Emmanuel Macron or Le Pen – have been left with much to celebrate.

Abstention was again a major factor in the election. Despite appeals by politicians and the prime minister Jean Castex for voters to turn out, almost two-thirds of French electors shunned the polling stations in regional elections on Sunday.

However, an alliance of rival parties to form a “republican front” against the RN – including the withdrawal of the Socialist party and left-wing alliance candidate – prevented the far right taking the region.

Sunday’s result was a final bitter disappointment for the RN, which had been predicted to do well in at least five regions in the first-round vote last Sunday. In the end, the RN came first only in PACA, and then only by a narrow margin.

Exit polls suggested that the Les Républicains candidate in PACA, Renaud Muselier, had polled a convincing 56.6% of votes against the RN’s Thierry Mariani’s 43.4%.

Afterwards, Le Pen said local democracy was suffering a “profound crisis” and criticised the “unnatural alliances” made between political rivals to confound a RN victory and “prevent us from showing that we can run a region”.

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

For the first round last Sunday, there was a record 66.74% abstention. This time just under 66% of voters failed to turn out.

Political analysts said the lack of interest in the regional elections is because France had become focused on the presidential election next year and the legislative elections that follow shortly afterwards.

Philippe Ballard, who stood for the RN in the Île-de-France region, insisted the far-right party was increasing its popularity in the country and this would be played out in next year’s leadership race.

Stanislas Guerini, MP for Macron’s governing La République En Marche (LREM), admitted the results were also “a disappointment” for the governing party that failed to win a single region. “We have work to do,” he said, adding that he “rejoiced” in the fact the RN had not gained any region.

Xavier Bertrand, a former minister when Nicolas Sarkozy was president, who was reelected in the Hauts-de-France with 52.8%, saw his hopes of representing the mainstream right in next year’s presidential boosted.

This is the first election since France’s electoral map was redrawn in 2016 when the country’s 22 regions were reduced to 13.

The main winners appeared to be the mainstream left Parti Socialiste and left-wing allies, and the centre-right Les Républicains. Both parties have been absent from the French political landscape since Macron’s centrist LREM party’s election success in 2017.

Kim Willsher is an award-winning foreign correspondent based in Paris

The Guardian has a small favour to ask. Through these challenging times, millions rely on the Guardian for independent journalism that stands for truth and integrity. Readers from 180 countries chose to support us financially more than 1.5 million times in 2020.

"You never act your age, in spirit, outlook, humor or perspective. But you do show the wisdom and sensibility that only 200 years' of extraordinary reporting can bring. One can only imagine what you will continue to grow into!" – Mary Garton, US

With your help, we will continue to provide high-impact reporting that can counter misinformation and offer an authoritative, trustworthy source of news for everyone. With no shareholders or billionaire owner, we set our own agenda and provide journalism that’s free from commercial and political influence. When it’s never mattered more, we can investigate and challenge without fear or favour.

Unlike many others, we have maintained our choice: to keep Guardian journalism open for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. We do this because we believe in information equality, where everyone deserves to read accurate news and thoughtful analysis. Greater numbers of people are staying well-informed on world events, and being inspired to take meaningful action.

We aim to offer readers a comprehensive, international perspective on critical events shaping our world – from the Black Lives Matter movement, to the new American administration, Brexit, and the world's slow emergence from a global pandemic. We are committed to upholding our reputation for urgent, powerful reporting on the climate emergency, and made the decision to reject advertising from fossil fuel companies, divest from the oil and gas industries, and set a course to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.

If there were ever a time to join us, it is now. Every contribution, however big or small, powers our journalism and sustains our future. Support the Guardian from as little as $1 – it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Support the Guardian