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Voter turnout to determine outcome of France’s regional elections

Claude Bartolone (PS), Valérie Pécresse (Républicains) and Wallerand de Saint Just (FN), both candidates in the Paris region, 9 December 2015
Claude Bartolone (PS), Valérie Pécresse (Républicains) and Wallerand de Saint Just (FN), both candidates in the Paris region, 9 December 2015 AFP/ Kenzo Tribouillard

France’s second round of regional elections enters on Friday its final day of campaign. Despite record results last weekend, opinion polls showed the far-right Front National might be beaten by the Conservative party Les Républicains in key regions.

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The FN topped the vote in six of 13 regions in the first round of voting last weekend and took 28 per cent of the vote nationwide ahead of 27 per cent for the Républicains and 23.5 per cent for the Socialists.

But after the ruling Socialist party withdrew its candidates in two key regions and called on its supporters to back Les Républicains in the second round, the FN’s hopes of winning its first region could be dashed.

According to a TNS-Sofres poll, FN leader Marine Le Pen might be beaten in the northeastern Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie region by Républicain’ Xavier Bertrand by 53 per cent to 47 per cent. Although she scored over 40 per cent of the vote in the first round.

In the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen could also be defeated by Républicain’ Christian Estrosi by 46 per cent to 54 per cent.

The voter turnout remains the big issue for Sunday as 50 per cent abstained in the first round.

“There are two options for our country (…), the far-right option which calls on division that can lead to civil war. The other option is the Republic and its values, which brings citizens together,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French national radio France Inter on Friday.

How the regions voted

According to political scientist Thomas Guénolé, the low voter turnout shows “the youth’s rejection of an old France and a political class that they don’t trust in solving and understanding their concerns”.

“Young generations don’t have access to home ownership, nor employment,” Guénolé stressed as 65 per cent of young people aged between 18-24 didn’t vote in the first round.

According to polls, one out of three young voters, aged between 18-24, voted for the FN in the first round.

“It is all fine and well to urge us to go to vote, but we should be encouraged! But politicians work for their career first at the expense of the French people,” said Thibault a student in Economics in Paris.

“I’d rather not vote to sanction politicians, all corrupt, than vote for the FN,” said Lucien, 20.

“To urge us to vote to block the far-right doesn’t work,” said Elodie 25, teacher, and Sylvain 34. “Our elites don’t even ask question about their own poor results and that reveals serious social problems,” they added.

Although the Socialists have sacrificed their candidates in the regions where Le Pen and her niece are running and called on supporters to back the opposition, “the FN’s biggest advantage is that it is not tainted by the errors of the other,” said Jean-Yves Camus an expert on the FN.

“They have never had to be accountable, so people are increasingly asking themselves ‘Why not the FN?’ “, Camus resumed.

The result will depend on the voter turnout but as “the only argument advanced by both Socialists and Républicains is to fight either the opposition, either the far-right, it is not very motivating,’ noted political scientist Joël Gombin.

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