Leftist pulls out of Provence regional vote run-off, setting up far-right, conservative clash

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Le Pen is hoping to win the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, which would give her a platform and momentum for the 2022 presidential election. But her candidate, Thierry Mariani, fared less well than expected in the first round.

French mainstream parties have traditionally rallied behind the one best placed to keep the far right out of power in local and national elections, a strategy known as “front republicain”.

But on Sunday night, the Green candidate in the southeast, Jean-Laurent Felizia, had refused to pull out, drawing condemnation from large parts of the French political class.

There was no immediate comment from Felizia’s camp on the reports he was bowing out, but he planned a news conference shortly.

Le Pen’s ticket in Provence came in just ahead of the centre-right alliance led by the incumbent Renaud Muselier in Sunday’s first round, a narrower margin than expected in what was her best chance of winning a region for the first time ever.

One poll last week suggested the far right could still win Provence next Sunday even if all parties rally behind the incumbent.

Le Pen has made a concerted push to detoxify her party’s image and erode the mainstream right’s vote with a less inflammatory brand of eurosceptic, anti-immigration populist politics.

Meanwhile in the greater Paris region, left-wing candidates agreed to present a single ticket, taking on the incumbent centre-right candidate, Valerie Pecresse, tipped as a possible conservative candidate to run in the 2022 presidential election.

President Emmanuel Macron’s LREM party finished fifth in the first round of the regional vote – as badly as expected, amid discontent over crime, threats to jobs from globalisation and a ruling elite seen as out of touch with ordinary citizens.

(REUTERS)

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