PARIS (AP) — France is holding the second round of municipal elections in 5,000 towns and cities Sunday that got postponed due to the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
The voting to fill local offices in Paris and thousands of other places was suspended after the first round of the nationwide municipal elections on March 15th, which produced decisive outcomes in some 30,000 other mostly small communes.
Voters are set to choose mayors and municipal councillors on Sunday at polling stations operating under strict hygiene rules. Face masks, soap or hand sanitizers and maintaining 1 meter (about 3 feet) between each person in lines are mandatory. Voters have been told to bring their own pens to sign the register.
The spread of the coronavirus has slowed significantly in France in recent weeks and almost all restrictions on social and business activity were gradually lifted over the last month. France has reported nearly 200,000 confirmed cases and 29,781 deaths in the pandemic.
But the virus is still expected to hurt Sunday’s turnout, as it did in March. Only 44.7 per cent of voters, a record low, cast ballots in the first round of the municipal elections.
The elections, though ostensibly focused on local concerns, are also seen as a key political indicator ahead of the 2022 French presidential election.
Paris No-Go Suburbs Breaking Lockdown Measures Three Times More Than Average https://t.co/4GCeiwxMOy
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 28, 2020
The main battleground is Paris, where the mayor is an influential figure in French politics and will oversee the 2024 Olympics. Paris Mayor Annie Hidalgo, a Socialist Party member, finished in March with a strong lead ahead of conservative candidate Rachida Dati.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s 3-year-old centrist party is fielding municipal candidates for the first time and still lacks local roots across France. The party, Republic on the Move, doesn’t have candidates in every race and in some instances is backing candidates from both the left and the right instead.
Macron’s government has faced criticism during the pandemic over mask shortages, testing capacity and a lack of medical equipment. A government reshuffle is expected in the wake of Sunday’s elections.
Recent opinion polls show Macron’s popularity rating is hovering around 40 per cent, which is higher than from before the virus outbreak.
France Will Not ‘Erase History’ by Removing Statues, Says Macron https://t.co/2kJxOAbIhG
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 15, 2020
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, whose popularity has significantly increased in recent weeks, is running for mayor in his hometown of Le Havre.
The conservative Republicans party, which was the big winner in the 2014 municipal election, is expected to do well again based on its strong network of elected officials.
On the left, the Europe Ecology-The Greens party looks to significantly increase its influence by surpassing a traditional ally, the weakened Socialist Party.
Europe Ecology-The Greens and leftist allies appear to be in a position to win the mayoral races in several big cities, including Marseille, Lyon, and Toulouse. The party is backing Hidalgo’s reelection in Paris.
The anti-immigration National Rally is focusing on consolidating its 2014 results, when candidates backed by the party won in 12 towns.
Marine Le Pen Proposes National Referendum on Immigration https://t.co/gRICZE5KXX
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) September 19, 2019