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French local elections: Different aims for ruling party hopefuls, PM, president

Eyes on a different prize: French President Emmanuel Macron is already looking beyond the second round of French municipal elections toward an expected overhaul of his ruling party.
Eyes on a different prize: French President Emmanuel Macron is already looking beyond the second round of French municipal elections toward an expected overhaul of his ruling party. POOL/AFP

France’s ruling party candidates have different expectations over the outcome of municipal elections due on 28 June. Prime Minister Philippe expects to win while former Health minister expects to lose. Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron is busy building post-Covid policies to be outlined next week.

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Buzyn, to lead opposition in Paris

Agnes Buzyn, the ruling Republic on the Move candidate for Paris Mayor scored a low 18 percent in recent surveys, well behind Socialist incumbent Anne Hidalgo and right-leaning Les Republicains candidate, Rachida Dati.

Buzyn joined the race at the last minute after Benjamin Griveaux had to step down because of a sex scandal where some compromising video footage was widely shared on social media.

She ambitions to be a very vocal opposition figure and hopes to secure enough municipal councillors to make a difference at the Paris Council.

“It should not be that difficult. During the last six years, Rachida Dati only spoke an average of 10 minutes each year at the council.,” Byzyn told Le Monde newspaper.

The former Health minister does not intend to leave politics soon after the second round of municipal elections. She promises to be back in six years and is confident she will be elected as the next mayor of Paris.

PM to return to Le Havre?

The situation of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in Le Havre is different. He is running against communist Jean-Paul Lecoq and last week’s surveys indicated he might win the second round with 53 per cent of the votes.

Philippe has already won the mayoral vote in Le Havre in 2010 and 2017, before he accepted the position of prime minister in President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

The challenge will be to make the two posts work: mayor and prime minister. He said that Jean-Baptiste Gastine will fill in for him. The latter has been interim mayor since 2019.

Philippe told France 3 Normandie TV that it will depend on what President Macron decides for his government reshuffle in July.

“If the president thinks that I can bring something in this new government, I will not shy away,” he added. “But if he chooses someone else to embody the change, it will not be a problem at all and I will happily take the position of mayor if the people of Le Havre want me.”

His opponent enjoys the support of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of France Unbowed, whose instructions are to vote for Lecoq to sanction the government and the policies carried out by Edouard Philippe.

Spring cleaning, Macron style

Sunday’s municipal elections is not the main pre-occupation of Macron, according to Le Figaro daily.

His entourage insists that “these are local elections” which bears no significance on the president’s rethinking of his policies for France.

The president intends to turn the page quickly on the second round of local elections - where his party is expected to fare poorly - and outline his “post-Covid” plans for France on 24 June.

A major overhaul is rumoured to be in the making, shrouded by secrecy and feeding speculations within government ranks. Macron plans a government reshuffle in July that should also depend on how he now intends to restart France’s economy and social services.

To do so, Macron is conducting a number of wide-ranging consultations, from ministers to former presidents, economists and trade unions.

On 23 June, the president is meeting a number of ministers in charge of economy, budget, labour, health and environment. This week, Macron will be busy in meetings with the heads of political groups at the National Assembly and the Senate.

Talks with former Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and Valérie Giscard d’Estaing are also on the agenda.

Two years ahead of presidential elections, Macron is intent on bringing profound changes to his policies after Covid-19 shuffled the cards.

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