These are the main keys for understanding the regional and departmental french elections, whose first round is held tomorrow, Sunday.

1.- Prelude to the 2022 presidential elections.

Despite the fact that the French regions have more powers after the reforms of the last decades, these elections are viewed through the prism of the presidential elections of 2022.

The president, Emmanuel Macron, heads a very young party (LREM) with little territorial implantation, for which the Government has bet heavily and thirteen ministers and secretaries of State appear in some candidacy.

2.- A peculiar electoral system.

The regionals are two rounds. If a candidacy achieves 50% of the votes in the first, it is the winner. If no one succeeds, the second can be attended by those who obtain at least 10% of the votes in the first.

For this reason, in the second round there may be three, four or even five candidates, and there the most voted list wins by simple majority. And that also means that the extreme right can govern if in any region it obtains more votes even if it is far from the majority.

3.- The rise of the extreme right.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right Agrupación Nacional (RN) has progressively advanced in recent years. The internal rivalry between the parties that make up the right and left blocs may prevent “republican fronts” from forming this time to stop the extreme right, which could lead the RN to win a regional government for the first time.

4.- The division of the right.

The conservative right-wing party, Los Republicanos, fears that Macron and his liberal formation will fagot him, as he has done with some personalities from the now very weakened Socialist Party.

For this reason, the LR has reacted furiously to the joint candidacy that integrates members of its party with figures from the Macron formation (LREM) in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region.

Several regional leaders of the LR have advanced that they will not give up their own candidacies in the second round, even if it helps the extreme right, in order not to lose their primacy on the traditional right.

5.- Weak and divided left.

With the Socialist Party weakened and without strong leadership, the populist left-wing formation Francia Insoumise (LFI) and Los Verdes seek leadership from the left at the national level by 2022.

This fight for the primacy of the bloc also complicates the formation of alliances and makes it more difficult to make sacrifices (such as giving up participating in the second round to try to stop the extreme right).

6.- First election after the pandemic.

This is the first election after the confinements of the last fifteen months. In the municipal elections of a year ago, still under the hangover of the first confinement, there was a record abstention and only 45% of the census voted.

In addition, this election will allow us to see how the French judge the action of their Government, both in health matters – with three confinements that have greatly affected the population – and in the strong economic support to the companies and workers affected, which has triggered the deficit and the State debt, but which in some sectors is still considered insufficient.

7.- Crispation.

The political tone has become very rarefied in recent weeks. Following the slap Macron received from a far-right royalist, LFI leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon was doused with flour during an election event.

On other occasions, candidates have been rebuked and insulted by citizens and even by politicians from opposite parties. Last year, 1,300 assaults on public officials were registered in France, three times more than in 2019.

And in the last two months an ultra-conservative magazine has published two tribunes of retired and active military, warning that France is at risk of decomposition and faces the risk of a civil war.

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