French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling La Republique En Marche (LREM) party failed to achieve success in the first round of regional elections held on Sunday.

An estimated 66.1% of voters shunned polling stations, which was regarded as unprecedented. The abstention rate was 50.09% in 2015 and 53.67% in 2010.

According to the exit polls, LREM’s candidates did not lead the first round in any region of the country.

A total of 15 ministers competed for LREM in the elections, but none of them could garner the number of votes needed to finish the first round ahead.

Exit polls showed the center-right Les Republicains party winning 28.7% of the national vote ahead of the far-right National Rally party with 19.4%, followed by the Socialist Party, the Green party and Macron’s LREM with 10.4%.

The elections were initially slated for March but were delayed twice — first by three months and then by another week — due to an exponential rise in coronavirus cases.

Held every six years, they will take place in 18 regional presidencies — 13 in metropolitan France and Corsica and five in the overseas territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana, Mayotte and Reunion — and will elect 1,800 councilors.

Voting will take place in two stages — the first round on June 20 and the second on June 26 — to elect the councilors who in turn will elect the president of the Regional Council, president of the Departmental Council and mayors.

The regional polls are taking place a year ahead of presidential elections and are considered a precursor as to who will take control of the Elysee in 2022. Polls have predicted a face-off next year between incumbent President Macron and far-right opposition leader Marine Le Pen.

Macron and Le Pen have hit the campaign trail alongside other leaders from the Socialist, centrist, far-left and ecological parties.

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

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