France municipal elections: Greens score gains in second round

Cheryl Sanders
July 3, 2020

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.

The big winners were the Green ecologists, who ousted the Socialists in Lyon, France's third largest city, as well as captured Bordeaux, another big city which was a bastion of the centre-right.

Poll organizers were wearing masks and gloves for protection, and in some places they were separated from voters by transparent plastic shields.

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.

Socialist Party's Anne Hidalgo won the post of the Paris mayor for the second consecutive term.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, in charge of organizing the elections, said that "everywhere across France, health measures. were able to be respected".

Sunday's voting was meant to choose mayors and municipal councilors in about 5,000 towns and cities.

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.

Traditional right-wing and Socialist parties managed respectable showings, contested more than three months after the March 15 first round was held just as the COVID-19 epidemic was gaining ground, and two days before France entered lockdown. 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.

The local elections typically give voters the opportunity to support or chastise a president mid-mandate. "I can't see why we should change the prime minister", a government minister close to Macron said.

In a small bit of good news for Macron, Edouard Philippe, who served as his prime minister, won the mayoral race in Le Havre.

This could lead to a cabinet reshuffle, although the constitution allows Mr Philippe to name a substitute as mayor while he remains in the government.

Government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye acknowledged the party's modest result in the elections, stressing that planting local roots "is taking time".

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.

The far-right, anti-immigrant National Rally led by Ms Marine Le Pen - still regarded as President Macron's most serious rival for the next presidential elections - claimed victory in the southern city of Perpignan, the first far-right takeover of a French city of more than 100,000 inhabitants in nearly three decades.

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