PARIS - Nationalist dominated the first round of local elections on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, winning more than 45 percent of the vote in preliminary results. The vote has been closely watched elsewhere, following Catalonia’s independence moves in Spain.
The results mark a clear victory for the current ruling nationalist coalition in Corsica. Their Pe a Corsica list earned significantly more votes during this first round than two years ago, when they swept to an unprecedented victory in regional elections. A smaller nationalist ticket received far fewer votes. But should the two unite, they would capture the majority of seats in Corsica’s assembly.
Speaking to French TV, nationalist leader Gilles Simeoni, who heads the winning ticket, said his group would represent all Corsicans, whether they supported their movement or not.
The nationalists took power in 2015, refueling, for some, long-held independence dreams on the island. Catalonia’s independence struggle has added further juice.
University of Bordeaux Corsica expert Thierry Dominici said the results were a huge victory - and suggest nationalist sentiments touch everyone in Corsica. He credited the high abstention rate to a mix of factors - including that many are waiting for next Sunday's runoff.
Strikingly, France’s main parties scored extremely low - including the far-right National Front party which faired strongly in Corsica during the presidential elections.
That meant, Dominici said, Corsican support for the far right reflects a protest vote, rather than real support.
The Corsican results mark yet another European region tilting to more autonomy. Unlike Spain’s Catalonia region, however, Corsica’s ruling coalition is not demanding independence - rather more local control of matters like taxation and education. More die-hard nationalists continue to hope for more.