Macron likely to suffer setback in French local elections

Cheryl Sanders
June 29, 2020

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

Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party failed to make significant inroads at the local polls, which were seen as a mid-term test for the French president, two years before he faces reelection. Grégory Doucet, from Europe Ecology - The Greens (EELV), has been elected mayor of Lyon with 50.8 percent of the votes.

Green candidates won in the major cities of Marseilles, Lyon, Strasbourg and Bordeaux in municipal elections postponed by the outbreak of Covid-19.

France pressed ahead with the first round of the municipal elections in mid-March, less than 48 hours before Macron imposed one of Europe's strictest lockdowns, forcing a long delay before the second round.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo getting a bouquet of flowers after her victorious second round of the municipal election Sunday
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo getting a bouquet of flowers after her victorious second round of the municipal election Sunday

The Socialist mayor's victory will allow her to oversee the 2024 Summer Olympics.

By 5.00 p.m. (1500 GMT) only 35 per cent of voters had cast a ballot, below the 52 per cent registered at the same time in the last municipal elections in 2014, and political observers forecast a record low.

Only 40% of voters cast ballots as French voters were required to wear masks, maintain social distancing while in lines and carry their own pens to sign voting registers.

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.

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.

Ms Hidalgo has pledged to continue her ambitious programme to cut pollution, encourage cycling and expand green spaces, while pedestrianising more of Paris.

The spread of Covid-19 has slowed significantly in France, following almost 200,000 confirmed cases and 29,781 deaths.

But aides had more recently been playing down expectations and the sweeping wins by the Greens, who in some cities joined forces with leftist allies, may compel Macron to reshuffle his government to win back disenfranchised left-wing voters. French authorities have faced criticism during the pandemic over mask shortages, testing capacity and for going ahead with the first round of elections instead of imposing a lockdown earlier.

However, Mr Macron has expressed concern at the low turnout in the elections, which are seen as a key indicator in the lead-up to presidential elections in 2022.

Most notably, Macron said he was ready to call a referendum on making "ecocide" a crime.

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. He may appoint someone else to act as mayor if he remains at the head of the government.

The conservative Republicans party, which was the big victor in the 2014 municipal election and has a strong network of local elected officials, appeared to do well again.

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