[Pressure]France’s Macron Under Pressure as Recent Terrorist Attacks Weigh on Regional Elections

2021-07-22

  Conservatives garnered an estimated 29.3% of the vote nationally last Sunday amid record-high abstention rates, while

  Marine Le Pen’s

  antimigrant National Rally took a lower-than-expected 19.1%. The Socialist Party and the Green Party won 16.5% and 13.2% respectively, while Mr. Macron’s party came in fifth with 10.9%.

  On Sunday, turnout by midday was 12.66%, slightly up from last week’s record low of 12.22%, according to the French Interior Ministry. Turnout stood at 19.59% at the same time in the previous regional elections in 2015.

  France has been buffeted by a string of terrorist attacks in recent years, including the beheading of a middle-school teacher by a Chechen refugee in October. That attack stunned the nation, with Mr. Macron describing it as an assault on France’s Enlightenment values and cracking down on mosques across the country.

  Sunday’s election provides an early window into how voters are responding to the violence and its fallout. It also signals how France’s myriad political parties are jockeying for position and forging alliances ahead of the April 2022 presidential election.

  Thierry Mariani, the National Rally candidate for president of Provence-Alpes-C?te d’Azur, at a polling station on Sunday.

  Photo:

  eric gaillard/Reuters

  Thierry Mariani,

  Marine Le Pen’s candidate for president of Provence-Alpes-C?te d’Azur in the southeast of France, finished first last Sunday with 36.4% of the vote. Since then, the socialist and green parties have dropped out of the race, effectively throwing their support behind the conservative candidate,

  Renaud Muselier.

  Mr. Macron endorsed Mr. Muselier early on, withdrawing his own candidate from the race.

  Such alliances, known as the front républicain, are designed to impede National Rally’s path to power. The tactic was key to Mr. Macron winning the presidency in 2017 as establishment parties rallied behind his candidacy to ensure Ms. Le Pen’s defeat.

  Mr. Macron rose to power on a platform of “neither right, nor left.” He created a new party, Republic on the Move, and formed a government that poached heavily from the ranks of establishment parties that had governed France since the end of World War II.

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  A successful showing by traditional parties in this year’s regional elections, however, is likely to embolden their presidential candidates in challenging Mr. Macron as the standard-bearer of establishment politics in the country.

  Three conservative presidential hopefuls are in the running for regional offices on Sunday.

  Xavier Bertrand,

  a former member of the conservative Les Républicains party, is expected to win the presidency of the North of France region, where Mr. Macron’s candidate failed to qualify for the runoff.

  Laurent Wauquiez

  of Les Républicains won the first round of voting in Auvergne-Rh?ne-Alpes, a region in the southeast of France. Conservative

  Valérie Pécresse,

  the president of the Paris region, is facing a runoff with

  Julien Bayou,

  who is backed by the Green Party, the Socialist Party, and the far-left France Unbowed party.

  Write to Noemie Bisserbe at noemie.bisserbe@wsj.com

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