French regional vote casts doubt on Macron-Le Pen matchup in 2022

Paris, Jun 21 (EFE).- The results of the first round of regional elections are leading some in France to question the conventional wisdom that next year’s presidential contest will boil down to a battle between centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

“We are not doomed to a Macron-Le Pen showdown next year,” Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure said Monday.

“Since yesterday we know that the French have mostly chosen candidates from the (traditional) right or from the left,” he said, referring to Sunday’s first round of balloting for regional assemblies and councils.

Amid record low turnout of 33.3 percent, the conservatives lead in six of 13 regions going into the June 27 second round, while left parties have the advantage in five others and the nationalists look set to retain control in Corsica.

Macron’s centrist La Republique en Marche (LREM), founded just four years ago as a vehicle for his presidential bid, fared poorly.

In the northern region of Hauts-de-France, the LREM finished behind both the conservative Les Republicains (LR) and Le Pen’s National Rally, falling below the threshold of 10 percent of the vote needed to take part in the second round.

The National Rally, which had been favored in six regions, are ahead only in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, which includes Marseille, France’s second city.

Even so, political analyst Jean-Yves Camus told Efe Monday that it would be a mistake to write off the National Rally.

LR garnered roughly 29 percent of the vote nationwide and its three potential presidential hopefuls: Xavier Bertrand, Valerie Pecresse and Laurent Wauquiez seem assured of winning re-election as regional council chiefs in Hauts-de-France, Ile-de-France and Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, respectively.

“Yesterday we showed that we can make the National Rally retreat,” Bertrand said Monday.

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