France municipal elections: Greens score gains in second round

Elias Hubbard
June 29, 2020

In the capital, the elections biggest prize, the sitting socialist Mayor, Anne Hidalgo, is on track for a comfortable win after a shambolic campaign by Macron and his La Republique en Marche (LaRem) party.

French people went to the polls wearing face masks yesterday for the final round of municipal elections expected to yield a low voter turnout and a rebuke for the party of President Emmanuel Macron.

The highest-profile battleground was Paris, whose mayor will oversee the 2024 Olympics. She has been mayor since 2014 and is known for her eco-initiatives in Paris to combat air pollution, like encouraging cycling and electric vehicle usage instead of general cars.

She is backed by the Europe Ecology-The Greens party, which gained strong influence nationwide in Sunday's voting.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo gesturing after her victorious second round of the municipal election Sunday.

Exit polls have already shown that Greens and their leftist allies may win control of the major cities Lyon and Marseille, and are ahead in sweeping Bordeaux City Hall.

The only region of France not voting Sunday was the overseas territory of Guiana in South America, where the pandemic was deemed too active to open polling stations. "That is a satisfaction".

The first round of the elections had taken place in March just before the country locked down over COVID-19. The first round was held just days before Macron imposed one of Europe's strictest lockdowns in mid-March.

The spread of the coronavirus has slowed significantly in France in recent weeks and nearly all restrictions on social and business activity were gradually lifted over the last month. France has reported almost 200,000 confirmed cases and 29,781 deaths in the pandemic but experts believe all reported figures are undercounts due to limited testing and missed mild cases.

At the same time, the turnout on Sunday was relatively low at 41 percent, according to Ipsos, most likely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye said "we were the challengers in this election", stressing that planting local roots "is taking time".

Macron's Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, was elected mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, but the president's party was expected to fare poorly across the country because of his waning popularity, its lack of a strong grassroots support base and internal splits that have led to the loss of its absolute parliamentary majority.

Philippe has seen his popularity increase significantly in recent weeks.

If he continues as the head of government, Mr Philippe may appoint someone else as mayor while he remains in Paris.

The local elections typically give voters the opportunity to support or chastise a president mid-mandate.

Critics accused Macron of using the icy photo-op to burnish his government's green credentials ahead of the local elections.

The conservative Republicans party, which was the big victor in the 2014 municipal election, is expected to do well again based on its strong network of elected officials.

The anti-immigration, far-right National Rally won a symbolic victory in the southern city of Perpignan, leading Louis Aliot to become the first member of the party to run a city of more than 100,000 inhabitants.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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