French former prime minister Edouard Philippe re-elected mayor of Le Havre

Edouard Philippe, who served as mayor of the western port city between 2010 and 2017, was re-elected on Sunday by 47 votes of the 59-seat city council. His first words following his election were “Let’s get to work”.

Edouard Philippe in October 2018.
Edouard Philippe in October 2018. Eric Feferberg / AFP

Le Havre is a city of 170,000 inhabitants. Fewer than 42 percent of them bothered to vote in the Covid delayed second round of municipal elections, comfortably won by Edouard Philippe with 59 percent of the vote.

“Being elected mayor gives me the chance to fill the best elected position in the republic,” he announced on Sunday to a packed council chamber, saying he was optimistic, despite the poor electoral turnout. “We’re going to do our best,” he promised, “and that’s already quite a lot.”

Several observers noted that the man who has had to deal with an unprecedented series of crises in his three years as Emmanuel Macron’s prime minister is showing signs of fatigue.

His friend, the European deputy Gilles Boyer, said he thinks the returning mayor is “relieved”, both physically and emotionally. “Three years non-stop like that,” he said. “That’ll wear you out!” Boyer thinks the man is happy to be back working at local level.

Ambitions for the city but not for himself

Philippe has promised that he will be guided by his sense of the general interest. His key concepts are “coherence, consistency and ambition”. But he was quick to qualify that last term, knowing that many have seen his return to Le Havre as a clever sidestep on the road to the presidential election in 2022.

“You have to be careful in France when you use the word ‘ambition’,” he explained, “because it’s a word that is often used to your discredit. I’m talking, obviously, about the ambition of this city, the ambition of this port.”

Edouard Philippe spoke for 20 minutes without once mentioning his three years as government leader. Facing journalists after the official ceremony, he likewise refused all commentary on Jean Castex, the man who has replaced him in the national hotseat.

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