France holds run-offs for regional elections on Sunday that could shift the balance between political heavyweights vying for pole position in next year’s presidential race, reports The Globe and Mail.
Last Sunday’s first round proved dire for President Emmanuel Macron, whose party is on course to win none of France’s 13 mainland regions, but was also disappointing for far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Amid massive abstention, Le Pen’s party only came top in one region, Provence in the southeast, belying opinion polls projecting it would come first in six.
Instead, the traditional centre-right conservatives, which had been decimated by Macron in the 2017 presidential and legislative elections, staged a surprise comeback.
A trio of its top members, all former ministers and currently at the helm of some of France’s most populous regions, are running for re-election this Sunday, which they hope will give them a springboard for the 2022 presidential race.
In particular, Xavier Bertrand of the northern Hauts-de-France region around Calais has emerged as the conservatives’ favourite in opinion polls to represent the party in the presidential election.
Macron’s aides see the former health minister as a threat who could eat away at the president’s centre-right voter base in the first round of the presidential vote in April.