Exit polls show French far-right loses regional vote in key southern battleground, Europe News & Top Stories

PARIS (REUTERS) – Exit polls showed France’s far-right party headed for defeat in Sunday’s (June 27) election for the southeastern Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) region, its best hope for securing a local powerbase, with the incumbent centre-right projected to win.

The region had been seen as the far-right Rassemblement National’s best prospect for bringing credibility to leader Marine Le Pen’s claim that it is fit for power ahead of next year’s presidential election.

An exit poll by IFOP showed the far-right winning 44.2 per cent of the run-off vote in PACA compared to 55.8 per cent for the mainstream conservatives. A second survey by Opinionway showed the far-right taking 45 per cent of the vote compared to 55 per cent for its rivals.

In another key battleground in Sunday’s regional elections, the northern Hauts-de-France region, exit polls showed the centre-right ticket headed by conservative Xavier Bertrand, another contender for the 2022 presidential vote, headed for a comfortable victory over the far-right.

If the projections are confirmed, they will raise questions over how successful Le Pen’s strategy of softening the image of her anti-immigration euro-sceptic party to try to eat into the traditional right’s vote has been.

Even so, analysts say the apparent failure of Le Pen and her party to win in two of its strongholds should not be extrapolated on to next year’s presidential election.

Voter turnout in the country’s 13 regions was very low and voters typically have little affinity with their regional administrations that are responsible for promoting economic development, transport and high schools.