Paris, France | XINHUA | An exit poll showed candidates of the center-right party “The Republicans” is winning the top spot in the first round of France’s regional elections Sunday marked by a historic abstention.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s “The Republic on the Move” party, meanwhile, failed to anchor roots locally. For the president, who had dispatched 15 ministers to the battle and saw his troops painfully reaching 10 percent at the national level, “it’s a setback,” commented French daily Le Figaro on Monday.
The ruling party failed to secure a place for next Sunday’s run-off in Hauts-de-France and Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes regions.
According to the IPSOS exit poll, “The Republicans” won 27.2 percent of the national vote, ahead of the far-right on 19.3 percent, followed by the Green party, the Socialist Party and “The Republic on the Move” on 11.2 percent.
“This evening, it is the recognition of our work. ‘The Republicans’ is the party which collects the most votes,” Christian Jacob, president of “The Republicans,” told TF1 television.
“The Republicans” emerged first in northern Hauts-de-France and Grand-Est regions. It has an upper hand in Ile-de-France, the country’s economic hub and main tourist destination.
In a tight race against conservatives, the anti-immigrant and anti-Europe “National Rally” party headed the poll in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region. For a second round, its victory would be uncertain due to a traditional phenomenon of “Republican front” formed by a merge of party lists to block the far-right from winning.
Some 19,000 candidates represented in 155 lists have competed for seats in councils of 13 French regions to mainly manage local transport, education, security and unemployment during a six-year term.
Under the election rules in France, any candidate who gets more than 50 percent is declared the winner and there is no need for a second round. For those who cannot reach an outright majority, they have to obtain 10 percent in the first round of vote to head to the runoff on June 27.
Nearly one out of three French voters had cast a ballot to choose representatives at regional councils, marking a record low turnout at 26.72 percent, sharply down from the 43 percent in the first round of the 2015 election, the Interior Ministry’s data showed.