PARIS (Reuters) – Voters in France put on face masks to vote Sunday in a second round of municipal elections across the country, a medium-term test for President Emmanuel Macron and his ruling party that might not win a single big prize. city.
A year ago, Macron hoped that local elections would help anchor his young centrist party in towns and cities across France, including Paris, before a re-election bid slated for 2022. But more recently, presidential aides have been downplaying the expectations.
France’s 35,000 mayors set policies on issues ranging from urban planning to education to the environment, and while local factors generally drive voter elections, they give the electorate the opportunity to support or punish a president by half term.
“We have a government that is completely disconnected from reality,” said Naouel, a voter in the ninth district of Paris who said he was endorsing the center-right opposition candidate.
France pushed ahead with the first round of municipal elections in mid-March, less than 48 hours before Macron imposed one of Europe’s strictest coronavirus blocks, forcing a long delay before the second round.
The pandemic could still depress participation. At noon it was 15.3%, below the 19.8% recorded at the same time in 2014.
At the polling stations in Paris, employees wore masks or masks, and some sat behind Plexiglas screens. “It is better organized than last time,” said pensioner Jean de Nathan.
In the capital, the biggest prize in the elections, Acting Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo is on the way to a comfortable victory after a chaotic campaign by Macron and his La Republique en Marche (LaRem) party.
Paris is unlikely to be the only disappointment for Macron.
The Greens could do well in cities like Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux, sometimes in alliance with the left, building on the momentum they created in the 2019 European elections. In Perpignan, Marine Le Pen’s far-right party can take control of its first city with a population of more than 100,000.
Macron has said he will “reinvent” his presidency and present a detailed plan next month for the last two years of his term.
A government reorganization is widely expected. The biggest question mark is about the future of Edouard Philippe, Macron’s popular prime minister, who is running for his old job as mayor of Le Havre.
Reports by Richard Lough and Yonathan Van der Voort Edition by Peter Graff, Alex Richardson and Frances Kerry