French Greens make gains as Macron’s party falters in local polls

Strasbourg city hall candidate for the

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Voters in France donned face masks to cast their ballots on Sunday in a delayed second round of country-wide municipal elections, a mid-term test for President Emmanuel Macron and his ruling party which could fail to win a single big city.

Hidalgo largely beat conservative candidate Rachida Dati, according to estimates based on partial results. Hidalgo was elected mayor of Paris in 2014 and is the first woman to hold the office. Her reelection will allow her to oversee the 2024 Summer Olympics.

On the left, the Europe Ecology-The Greens party looks to significantly increase its influence by surpassing a traditional ally, the weakened Socialist Party.

The party's candidate in Paris, Agnes Buzyn, was projected to come a distant third with incumbent Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo on course to easily win a second term as mayor of the French capital.

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

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

Some 16.5 million eligible voters cast ballots in almost 5,000 cities and towns where the first round of municipal voting, on March 15, had failed to yield a decisive outcome. Mail-in voting isn't allowed in France. Face masks, soap or hand sanitizers and maintaining 1 meter (about 3 feet) between each person in lines are mandatory. "Thank you, Paris!", Hidalgo tweeted on Sunday.

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

Voters chose mayors and municipal councillors at polling stations operating under strict hygiene rules.

French ecologist party Europe Ecologie- Les Verts candidate for Bordeaux mayor Pierre Hurmic arrives at the City Hall following his victory after the second round of the French municipal elections in Bordeaux AFP
France’s local elections set to deal blow to Macron

The voting was suspended after the first round of the nationwide municipal elections on March 15, which produced decisive outcomes in 30,000 mostly small communes.

The spread of the coronavirus has slowed significantly in France in recent weeks and nearly all restrictions on social and business activity have been gradually lifted over the last month.

With just 22 months to the next presidential election, Macron's main challenger nationwide is Le Pen.

"Although Macron has done a pretty good job of managing Covid-19, he has not been rewarded by his public", said Mr Mujtaba Rahman, Europe managing director for the Eurasia Group risk consultancy.

Mr Macron hopes an coming cabinet reshuffle will reinvigorate his party's fortunes.

His government has faced criticism during the pandemic over mask shortages, testing capacity and a lack of medical equipment.

In a rare bright spot for Macron, his prime minister, Edouard Philippe, won his bid to become mayor of the northern port city of Le Havre.

The poll took place amid lingering worries over the pandemic and anger over Mr Macron's handling of the crisis. He may appoint someone else to act as mayor if he remains at the head of the government.

Macron expressed his concern over the high abstention rate. The party, Republic on the Move, doesn't have candidates in every race and in some instances is backing candidates from the left or the right instead.

"There are places ... where our own internal divisions brought us to results that were extremely disappointing", government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye said.



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