Defeat for Macron in regional opinion polls opens the presidential race wide open

On a visit to three towns in northern France last week, President Emmanuel Macron insisted he was not campaigning on Sunday. regional elections. “I simply continue my work for the nation,” he said. Few believed him. He leads the Hauts-de-France region north of Paris Xavier Bertrand, a center-right presidential candidate and a potential rival to Macron in next year’s elections for the Elysee Palace.

The president needed a decent electoral result for his centrist party, La République en Marche, to clip Bertrand’s wings. So he canceled the stations, adding at least five ministers to the party’s regional slate to boost his appeal and scheduling his visit to the region. But in the first round of voting on Sunday, LREM flopped, winning just 9 percent in Hauts-de-France, according to estimates, and failing to reach the second round of voting on June 27. Bertrand was victorious by 41 percent, defeating his far-right rival in a distant second.

Nationally, Macron was the biggest loser in the poll even though the far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen fared much worse than expected, receiving only 19 percent of the vote and coming first in just one region, rather than The expected six. . Macron’s party, which still lacks grassroots organization and the advantages of a local office, slipped to fifth place with 11 percent of the vote and failed to make it to the second round in several regions.

Elections for proportional representation for regional councils with only limited powers over transportation, schools and economic development are unreliable evidence of next year’s presidential contest. The participation rate was also very low, at 33 percent. But in two ways, it was a preparation for the next big race.

“What is at stake here is Emmanuel Macron’s ability to present himself as a bulwark against Marine Le Pen,” said Chloe Morin, an analyst at the Jean Jaures Research Foundation. “For Marine Le Pen, it is about the glass ceiling and breaking the idea that a high-stakes election cannot be won by her party.”

Sunday’s elections suggest that the glass ceiling remains difficult to break, although the far right may still have a chance of winning in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur next weekend. The formation of a regional council would be another step in the normalization of the far right, which has softened its political positions in recent months. Le Pen’s opponents hope the far-right’s disappointing outcome will blow some wind out of its sails.

In the meantime, Macron has to worry about Bertrand, his most plausible centre-right rival.

Presenting himself as the best-positioned politician to defeat the far right has been a key part of Macron’s political strategy from the start. He proved it by convincingly winning the presidency in 2017. But after four turbulent years at the Elysee, and with French politics in a frenzy over perceived threats of anarchy and Islamic terrorism, the threat from Le Pen is as strong as ever. Opinion polls consistently indicate that she will win the first round of the presidential election in April next year, and Macron will run in a tight election in the second. They also point out that Bertrand, the former conservative health and labor minister, will defeat her more easily than Macron.

By easily fending off the far right in northern France, Bertrand cemented his claim that he was better able to unite the nation against Le Pen. Here we dismantled and smashed the jaws of the National Front الجبهة [as the far-right used to be known]Sunday night said. He added that it was the barricade now.

Macron was hoping for a closer competition at Hauts-de-France so he could ride to save Bertrand in the second round. But Bertrand did not need his help. The center-right Republicans have consolidated their grip on other regions as well, showing that France is leaning strongly in a conservative direction even if the left is proving less moribund than thought. Bertrand can expect a major boost to his presidential campaign, assuming the Republicans fall behind him. The duel between Macron and Le Pen is now a three-dimensional race.

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