Early results indicate both President Emmanuel Macron and his opponent Marine Le Pen will fail to make the gains they were hoping for in the first round of regional elections in France.
Mr Macron’s centrist party is projected to gain more than 10% of the vote – just enough to take part in the second round next weekend.
Ms Le Pen’s far-right National Rally has also fallen short of expectations.
Both are trailing the conservative party, Les Républicains.
One of Mr Macron’s MPs, Aurore Bergé, described her party’s poor performance as a “democratic slap in the face for all of us”.
Ms Le Pen’s National Rally party was expected to top Sunday’s first round of polling, and win at least one region for the first time. Instead it is now predicted to come second.
Ms Le Pen is not running as a candidate but she has been leading the campaign.
She described the record-low voter turnout – a projected 66% abstention – as a “civic disaster”.
She blamed the results on the government’s inability to inspire faith in political institutions. “Let’s face it, the results were marked by a torrential and also historic abstention of nearly 70% due to the mistrust of an electoral system, which leaves voters with the feeling that nothing can change, that everything has been confiscated,” she said.
Voters are choosing new councils for France’s 12 mainland regions, the island of Corsica, plus four overseas, as well as 96 departments. There are more than 15,700 candidates standing for 4,100 seats.
This election is being watched particularly closely, because the next presidential elections are less than a year away. It is being used to get a taste of voters’ mood.
An Ipsos exit poll shows the conservative Les Républicains winning 27% of the vote, followed by National Rally with 19%. The Greens, the Socialist Party and Mr Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) are all on 11%.