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No change to status quo in French regional elections

PARIS

The results of Sunday’s much-anticipated French regional elections failed to make any splash in the political landscape, with most voters turning their backs on the ballot box. 

The status quo in results was hailed by President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling Le Republique en Marche party, as it kept the rival far-right National Rally party of Marine le Pen from winning any seats. The parties were expected to have a face-off, but neither secured any clear victory.

Gabriel Attal, a government spokesperson and member of Macron’s party, told France 2 TV that the results were a cause for pride, as the anti-immigrant National Rally scored votes “below estimates,” which indicates the “retreat of the party of hatred.” He added: “The political landscape has not changed one iota today.”

Members of Macron’s party claimed its poor performance was not a reflection of voter dissatisfaction or rejection of Macron’s politics, but that the party is still relatively new and was only contesting the regional elections for the second time since it was launched in 2017.

“We are here to stay and we’re taking the first steps to establish local roots,” said Aurora Berge, the party’s deputy chair.

Most of the voters chose to re-elect the incumbent regional heads. Amongst the big winners who kept the seats were Valerie Pecresse in the Ile-de-France (Paris region), Laurent Wauquiez in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region, and Xavier Bertrand – who is also contesting the 2022 presidential elections – in the Hauts-de-France region.

The Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur region, where the National Rally was expected to do well, was instead won by Renaud Muselier of Macron’s party.

Le Pen said that despite the loss, her party will continue to rehabilitate politics. “Faced with yesterday's record abstention, it is time to re-oxygenate French democracy, at the risk of it becoming a democracy without voters,” she said in a tweet.

The first and second round of elections held on June 20 and 27 showed record low turnouts. An Ipsos poll found 79% of young voters age 18-35 did not go out to vote, citing “dissatisfaction with politicians" (27%), "lack of interesting candidates" (23%) "other concerns” (20%) and “no interest” (18% ) as their reasons.

All political parties have expressed concerns about the low voter turnout as showing a “crisis in democracy.”

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