Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party had been hoping to win control of at least one French province in this year's regional elections, but those hopes were dashed Sunday as the election wrapped up and voters picked incumbents from traditional center-left and center-right parties over both Le Pen's party and French President Emmanuel Macron's La République En Marche (LREM).
Macron's LREM was effectively knocked out of contention in the first round of voting on June 20, but the National Rally candidate in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Thierry Mariani, made a strong showing in the first stage. In Sunday's runoff vote, Mariani lost to incumbent regional president Renaud Muselier of the center-right Les Républicains, 42.7 percent to 57.3 percent. "The loss is great disappointment for Le Pen, who was hoping to take at least one region in Sunday's local ballots to boost to her presidential bid for 2022," Politico Europe reports.
Macron and Le Pen are running neck-and-neck in early polls for next April's presidential election, but Les Républicains came out of the regional elections in a stronger position. Xavier Bertrand, who easily fended off a challenge from a National Rally candidate in the Hauts-de-France region, plans to run for president next year.
Stanislas Guerini, the leader of centrist LREM, called the election results "a disappointment" but said the party had helped defeat National Rally candidates. Le Pen's party dominated the first round of the previous regional elections in 2015, only to lose every race in the runoff votes as voters from different parties banded together to block Le Pen's candidates.