French voters go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of regional and departmental elections. Less than a year before France’s 2022 presidential elections, coronavirus pandemic-delayed rendez-vous is a potential bellwether for that contest, with some contenders keen to create a springboard for higher office.
FRANCE 24 looks at how these elections work, the existential stakes for political players, the far-right push for regional glory shaping the campaign, and the key races to watch.
Who can cast a ballot?
Eligible French adults registered to vote. European Union nationals resident in France do not have a say in these regional and departmental votes, unlike municipal elections.
Turnout could be a factor. In a survey of registered voters last week, 54 percent told Ifop pollsters they intended to stay away on Sunday. A full 58.4 percent of registered voters abstained from the pandemic-delayed second-round of nationwide local elections in June 2020, with the country similarly emerging from a coronavirus lockdown.
This year’s elections were meant to take place in March, but were delayed twice – first by three months and then by another week – as a precaution over Covid-19. The second round is on June 27.
Fourteen French regions – 12 on the mainland, plus Guadeloupe in the Antilles and La Réunion in the Indian Ocean – will choose from a total of 19,084 candidates to fill 1,757 regional council seats on June 20 and 27. Three other regions – Corsica, Martinique in the Antilles and French Guiana on the northern shoulder of South America – vote to fill the seats of their respective territorial assemblies.