Politics, Europe

Low turnout in French regional polls stumps political parties

Political leaders urge voters to vote in second round as President Macron’s party and rival National Rally perform poorly

Shweta Desai   | 21.06.2021
Low turnout in French regional polls stumps political parties

PARIS 

A record number of 66.74% voters abstained from the first round of regional elections in France.

The voting conducted on Sunday witnessed a turnout of just 33.26%, which means only one out of three voters came out to cast the ballot, as per the data released by the Interior Ministry.

The abstention rate is higher than in the 2015 and 2010 elections. Most of those, who stayed away from polling booths were young voters in the age group of 18 - 34 years.

“To win abstention is to lose democracy," said Prime Minister Jean Castex, while taking to Twitter. He appealed to French citizens to come out and vote in the second round on June 27.

The reasons being counted for the lowest ever voter turnout included bad weather conditions, people choosing to travel to enjoy holidays after remaining indoors due to lockdown, and general apathy towards regional elections.

Official Spokesperson, Gabriel Attal said the "abysmal abstention” was partly linked to the health situation.

In addition, Adrexo, a private postal company, appointed this year to distribute the electoral envelopes in seven regions with 22 million voters, failed to deliver the material at several places ahead of the first round of polls, said opposition leaders. They believed that non-availability of envelopes also led to abstentions.

Traditionally the government postal agency La Poste used to distribute electoral envelopes.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Monday summoned the company officials for their “unacceptable dysfunctions”.

The regional elections were believed to be a precursor to the 2022 presidential elections to gauge the mood of the electorate. But the low turnout has disappointed all the parties. It is believed that next year's presidential race will witness a close contest between President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche (LREM) and far-right opposition leader Marine Le Pen’s the National Rally.

The National Rally, projected to be a favorite in six regions, could maintain just a thin lead in one region in Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur.

In a speech soon after the voting ended on Sunday, Le Pen called the low turnout “a civic disaster that has deformed the electoral reality of the country”.

“If you want things to change, you must vote,” she said while urging voters to come out and cast ballots in the second round.

The LREM underperformed in the regions where its candidates were expecting a good show. In Hauts-de-France and Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, the candidates secured less than 10% votes necessary to qualify for the second round.

Party Spokesperson Aurore Berge told BFMTV, a French news channel, the party was expecting more victories.

"It's a democratic slap. It calls for a start,” she admitted.

The preliminary results show that socialists, left parties and the right-wing parties have fared better. But analysts say that the results of the first round are unpredictable and recommend waiting for the outcome.

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