France returns to polls for municipal elections, Macron faces drubbing

A general view shows the facade of Paris city hall, France

France emerges from months of coronavirus lockdown to vote on Sunday in a delayed second round of municipal elections, with opinion polls suggesting a dire outcome for President Emmanuel Macron, whose party could fail to win in any big city.

A year ago Macron had hoped the local elections would help anchor his young party in towns and cities across France, including Paris, ahead of an anticipated 2022 re-election bid. But more recently, presidential aides have been playing down expectations.

In the capital, the election’s biggest prize, the sitting socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo is on track for a comfortable win after a shambolic campaign by Macron and his La Republique en Marche (LaRem) party.

Meanwhile, the Greens are projected to do well in cities such as Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux, sometimes in alliance with the Left, building on momentum they created in 2019’s European elections. In Perpignan, Marine Le Pen’s far-right party may take control of its first city with a population over 100,000.

France pressed ahead with the first round of the municipal elections in mid-March, less than 48 hours before Macron imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, forcing a long delay before the second round.

“We’ll be careful. We can always bring our own pen, wear a mask and use sanitizer gel,” remarked Paris pensioner Christian Courtot.

Macron has said he will “reinvent” his presidency and present a detailed plan next month for the final two years of his mandate.

A government reshuffle is widely expected, with the biggest question-mark over the future of Macron’s popular prime minister, Edouard Philippe. Philippe is running for his old job as mayor of Le Havre.

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