Monday, December 14, 2015: The second round of the polls in the regional elections in France showed totally different results as the center-right, Les Republicains, won majority of the 12 regional divisions. The French public, keeping up the tradition, showed their intentions on who should be governing them.
The first round of the regional elections, much like governors’ elections in the US, was taken hands down by the far-right National Front (Front National in French), giving the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen a breakthrough in the last five-odd decades. Not even her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won in this manner when he was leading the dugout.
The center-right Republicans, led by the former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, did not take a clear lead in the first round of the polls. However, after an extensive soul-searching and successfully managing its voters to come out and decide who should be governing them, took strong hold of polls and sent a clear message to the far-right rival Le Pen that the public does not want FN in the decision making process.
The incumbent Socialists party meanwhile, failed to create much of a ripple in either of the rounds, coming in at third position in the first and second in the following phase of the elections. This is a clear indication of the serious concerns that the public has about the way President Francois Hollande is running the country.
National Front capitalized on lack of security, unemployment and huge influx of immigrants in the country in the first round. The French public has not been happy with Hollande’s policies regarding economy and security. The Paris attacks had taken the toll on their popularity a week ago.
However, Hollande’s strong response to the Islamic State, a radical group working in Syria and Iraq who claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, and the conclusive environment-control conference that concluded in Sunday in Paris brought them back into the game, but only just so much.
In three of the regions where FN was strong in popularity, Socialists joined hands with the Republicans and withdrew their candidacy in the latter’s favor. This resulted in a defeat of the FN in leader Le Pen and her niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen’s districts.
After the second round of the elections was concluded, Republicans had bagged seven of the 12 regions and three had been taken by in-power Socialists. However, French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls said that, “The danger of the extreme right has not been neutralized, far from it.”
The turnout in the second round was 59 percent, far more than in the second round. It can be credited to Sarkozy’s Republican’s campaign success but it has now become a custom in France to tease the right-wing parties in the first round and serious decision making polling in the second round. The turnout had been more than what was witnessed in the first round and the second round of the 2010 elections.
Although Le Pen has failed to gather more votes in the second round this time, she sends a clear signal to the leading party, Socialists, and the opposing Republicans that the electoral fabric will experience a change in the 2017 presidential elections and both parties will have a run for their money.