An exit poll has revealed that candidates of the centre-right party, “The Republicans”, was leading in the first round of the French regional elections marked by a historic abstention.
President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling “The Republic on the Move” party, meanwhile, failed to anchor roots locally, Xinhua news agency quoted the poll as saying on Monday.
For the President, who had dispatched 15 ministers to the battle and saw his troops painfully reaching 10 per cent at the national level, “it’s a setback”, commented French daily Le Figaro on Monday.
The ruling party failed to secure a place for next the June 27 run-off in Hauts-de-France and Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes regions.
According to the IPSOS exit poll, “The Republicans” won 27.2 per cent of the national vote, ahead of the far-right on 19.3 per cent, followed by the Green party, the Socialist Party and “The Republic on the Move” on 11.2 per cent.
“This evening, it is the recognition of our work. ‘The Republicans’ is the party which collects the most votes,” Christian Jacob, president of party, told TF1 television on Monday.
“The Republicans” emerged first in northern Hauts-de-France and Grand-Est regions.
It has an upper hand in Ile-de-France, the country’s economic hub and main tourist destination.
In a tight race against conservatives, the anti-immigrant and anti-Europe “National Rally” party headed the poll in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region.
For a second round, its victory would be uncertain due to a traditional phenomenon of “Republican front” formed by a merge of party lists to block the far-right from winning.
In the elections on Sunday, some 19,000 candidates represented in 155 lists have competed for seats in councils of 13 French regions to mainly manage local transport, education, security and unemployment during a six-year term.
Under the election rules in France, any candidate who gets more than 50 per cent is declared the winner and there is no need for a second round.
For those who cannot reach an outright majority, they have to obtain 10 per cent in the first round of vote to head to the runoff on June 27.
Nearly one out of three French voters had cast a ballot to choose representatives at regional councils, marking a record low turnout at 26.72 per cent, sharply down from the 43 per cent in the first round of the 2015 election, according to the Interior Ministry.