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FRENCH LOCAL ELECTIONS

'Green wave' in France as leaders call to postpone second round of voting

A voting bureau in Mulhouse, Eastern France
A voting bureau in Mulhouse, Eastern France SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Green party EELV reinforced its position as a rising opposition party in France in municipal elections on Sunday. In Paris, mayor Anne Hidalgo came ahead of opponent Rachida Dati. But with record abstention levels and increasing coronavirus restrictions on the population, the feasibility of a second round is questioned.

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France's municipal elections on Sunday for its 35,000-odd mayors and city councillors saw up to 56% of voters abstaining.

Most incumbent mayors largely secured their positions ahead of the second round.

This was the case with Anne Hidalgo in Paris who secured more than 30% of the vote. Her opponent Rachida Dati, from right-wing party Les Républicains, came in at 22%.

Soon after the results, Hidalgo called for unity with 'ecologist' and 'progressist' candidates.

She was manifestly wooing ecologist party EELV's David Belliard (11%), as well as Cédric Villani, dissident candidate from President Macron's Republic on the Move.

The performance of EELV was perhaps the highlight of the evening, with the party creating a 'green wave' by coming in first position in Lyon, Besançon, Strasbourg and Grenoble.

Centrist Republic on the Move was clearly in difficulty, and analysts reported that no major city looked easy to win in the second round for President Macron's ruling party.

The second round of elections is expected to create an open field for coalitions between parties, observers said.

RFI special coverage: see the complete results here

A man leaves a voting booth in Paris amid strict hygienic measures taken in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic
A man leaves a voting booth in Paris amid strict hygienic measures taken in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Coronavirus puts second round in limbo

Hovever, a fog of confusion fell on the feasibility of the second round of elections next Sunday.

With France being in a state of lockdown in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic and government preparing further restrictions on national mobility and social life, many politicans called for next week's polls to be postponed.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen deemed it 'incomprehensible' that the second round was still scheduled for next Sunday.

Green party EELV's chief Yannick Jadot 'solemnly called on the President' to postpone the elections, while Paris candidate Rachida Dati, in second place, urged the government for a 'prompt reply'.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that he would consult scientific experts and health authorities 'early next week' to come to a final decision, in consultation with 'political forces'.

Incumbent Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo led in first position in the French capital with over 30 per cent of the vote
Incumbent Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo led in first position in the French capital with over 30 per cent of the vote Reuters/Eliot Blondet

Elections shrouded in anxiety

Despite unprecedented restrictive measures announced on Saturday to contain the coronavirus epidemic, Macron's government had insisted that the first round of local elections would go ahead on Sunday.

And so they did.

Voting booths applied extraordinary measures of hygiene.

Berths were regularly disinfected. Hand sanitisers were omnipresent and voters were asked to keep a minimum distance of one metre from each other.

But despite the drastic measures, elections in the time of coronavirus were manifestly not a huge success with voters, nor with Macron's own party.

Prime Minister announces closure of cafes, shops, restaurants and cinemas

(With AFP and FranceInfo)

 

 

 

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