Wave of green wins in French local elections weakens President Macron

Elias Hubbard
July 3, 2020

President Emmanuel Macron, reeling from a humiliating wave of Green local election victories over the weekend, has embraced an unusual strategy to win back popularity: suggesting the French eat less cheese.

The coronavirus pandemic loomed large over the election and was blamed as the cause of record low turnout.

Seeking to quickly regain the initiative, Marcron announced 15 billion euros ($17 billion) would be invested over two years in "the ecological conversion of our economy". "The French will want results on green issues".

She added: "We have a government that is completely disconnected from reality".

However, Macron told the council he disagreed with its proposal for a 4% tax on dividends to help finance new greener policies, saying such a levy would discourage investments.

Voters handed the Greens control of key cities including Lyon, Bordeaux and Strasbourg, while Socialist Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was re-elected after forming an alliance with the EELV.

Across the board, President Emmanuel Macron's ruling La Republique en Marche (LREM) party - whose name broadly translates as "The Republic Onward" - did very badly; its candidates mostly failed to be elected.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe won the mayorship of the Normandy city of Le Havre, but he is not a card-carrying LREM member. To show that he is taking the gains seriously, Macron is meeting Monday with a citizens' group that he convened earlier this year in response to criticism that he wasn't doing enough on the climate.

Macron said he would move faster on environment-friendly policymaking and that he was ready to call a referendum in 2021 on revising the constitution to include climate goals if parliament allowed it. The protests began as a revolt against fuel taxes amid anger at lower speed limits on country roads.

A government reshuffle is likely next week, after Macron gives it some consideration, another government source said.

Macron has promised that the second part of is presidency would take note of failings during the first.

The first round of votes controversially took place just two days before President Macron declared lockdown in France in March.

Traditional rightwing and Socialist parties managed respectable showings, with the rightwing Republicans winning in more than half of cities with more than 9,000 residents.

The Far right and anti-immigrant National Rally, headed by Marine Le Pen, won the mayor's post in the southern city of Perpignan after its candidate, Louis Aliot, defeated the incumbent conservative party mayor. Only 40 per cent of the 16.5 million voters entitled to cast their ballots in French towns and rural areas made the effort to pick their mayors and local councillors, substantially down on the last nationwide local elections in 2014 when turnout was just over 52 per cent.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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