Macron faces crushing defeat in local elections, exit polls show

French president’s centrist party loses out to mainstream left-wing and right-wing opponents.

Macron faces crushing defeat in local elections, exit polls show

PARIS — Mainstream left-wing and right-wing parties surged ahead in French regional elections Sunday, outpacing both Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, according to exit polls.

According to an exit poll by Elabe, left-wing parties obtained 34 percent of the vote, compared to 29 percent of the vote for the right and 19 percent for the National Rally. La République en Marche obtained 10.9 percent of the vote, and in some regions Macron’s candidates failed to make it across the threshold to run in the second round, the poll said.

It indicates voters have largely chosen to support the outgoing presidents of regional councils, who are mostly from the mainstream left and the right.

Ten months out from the 2022 French presidential election, the regional elections are seen as important bellwethers for the national mood as the country emerges from over a year in and out of coronavirus lockdowns.

In the northern region of Hauts-de-France, the conservative and presidential hopeful Xavier Bertrand obtained 41 percent of the votes, compared to 26 percent for the National Rally, according to an OpinionWay poll for CNews.

In a statement Sunday evening, Bertrand declared triumphantly that he had “broken the jaws” of the National Rally.

The OpinionWay exit poll also indicated that the candidates for La République en Marche got less than 10 percent of the vote. That signals a humiliating defeat for Macron, who dispatched five ministers to run in the region in an attempt to boost results.

If confirmed by the final tally, Sunday’s results will also be a disappointment for supporters of the far right’s National Rally. Le Pen was hoping to take at least one regional council — a victory that would lend her party much-needed credibility.

The race in the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, where Le Pen was hoping for a clear win, appears tighter than expected. An exit poll from OpinionWay for CNews said that the National Rally’s candidate obtained 33 percent of the vote. This would put the far right’s Thierry Mariani ahead of the rightwing candidate Renaud Muselier, who is also backed by the LREM, at 30 percent. But another poll put Mariani and Muselier neck and neck.

The regional elections are taking place over two rounds, with candidates getting more than 10 percent of the votes facing off in a run-off round to be held June 27.

Following Sunday’s first-round vote, parties have until Tuesday morning to build alliances and register their lists of candidates for the second round.

In 2015, the left obtained 36 percent of the vote, ahead of the conservatives with 32 percent of the vote and the then National Front at 27 percent of the vote. La République en Marche had not yet been created.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Fugitive Belgian soldier Jürgen Conings found dead

Heavily armed extremist had threatened to kill high-profile virologist.

Fugitive Belgian soldier Jürgen Conings found dead

Belgian police believe a body found Sunday in woodland near the Dutch border is that of fugitive soldier Jürgen Conings, a far-right militant reported to be heavily armed who had been on the run for weeks after threatening to kill health experts and politicians. 

Conings disappeared on May 17 with weapons taken from military barracks where he was stationed, including a rocket launcher, machine gun and several grenades. He left messages for his wife and police laying out his assassination plans and singling out the country’s best-known virologist Marc Van Ranst as a target.

“The threat was very real,” Van Ranst told the BBC earlier this month, from a safe house where authorities had moved him and his family.  

Police on Sunday said the cause of death appeared to be suicide from a firearm, but that was not yet confirmed. The body was found in the Dilserbos woodland in the eastern municipality of Dilsen-Stokkem.

“My thoughts go out to the relatives and children of Jürgen Conings,” Van Ranst tweeted on Sunday. “For them this is very sad news, because they lose a father, a relative or a friend.” 

In an interview with De Morgen, the virologist said there was a sense of “relief,” especially for his 12-year-old son. 

As police led a massive manhunt, Conings became a hero among anti-lockdown campaigners and right-wing extremists.  

Tens of thousands rallied online to back him, with the Facebook group “I love Jürgen Conings” gathering up to 50,000 members before being taken down. Fans gathered for marches, holding banners such as “Jürgen’s life matters” and “As 1 behind Jürgen.” 

Coning’s body was discovered by Johan Tollenaere, mayor of the neighboring municipality of Maaseik, while out cycling in a group. Tollenaere told VTM Nieuws he believed the body was in an advanced state of decomposition, reported De Morgen.

Source : Politico EU More   

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