A record-low turnout was bad news for Marine Le Pen, but should also be a cause for wider concern
The morning after the final round of France’s regional elections, the two most likely contenders for the Élysée in next year’s presidential elections were left licking their wounds. Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) had the worst night, failing to win any of five regions it had targeted – some of them with high hopes of victory. President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La République En Marche, also failed to win anywhere and remains a phantasmagorical presence in the country at large. For a grassroots movement set up five years ago to renew politics, polling at around 7% is not a good look. The big winner of the night was the centre-right Republican, Xavier Bertrand, whose presidential ambitions have been considerably boosted by an impressive victory in the northern region of Hauts-de-France. A Macron-Le Pen run off next spring is not the foregone conclusion it once seemed.
Perhaps the most eye-catching statistic of all, however, was the turnout figure. The overwhelming, runaway winner of these polls was the unofficial stay-at-home party. Less than 35% of those eligible to vote opted to do so – a record low and only a fraction above last week’s first-round vote (also a record). Among 18- to 24-year-olds, close to 90% may have ignored the elections, while a huge majority of under-35s also found something better to do.