France is holding the second round of municipal elections in 5,000 cities that had to be postponed due to the country’s coronavirus epidemic.
Voting to fill local offices in Paris and thousands of other places was suspended after the first round of national municipal elections on March 15, which produced decisive results in some 30,000 other municipalities, for most of them small.
Voters on Sunday chose mayors and city councilors from polling stations operating under strict hygiene rules.
Face masks, soap or hand sanitizers and keeping one meter between each person in the queues were mandatory. Voters were asked to take their own pens to sign the register.
The spread of Covid-19 has slowed considerably in France in recent weeks and almost all restrictions on social and business activity have been gradually lifted in the past month. France has reported nearly 200,000 confirmed cases and 29,781 deaths during the pandemic.
But the virus is still expected to affect Sunday’s participation, as it did in March. Only 44.7% of voters, a record level, voted in the first round of municipal elections.
Polls, although clearly focused on local concerns, are also considered a key political indicator before the French presidential election in 2022.
The main battlefield is Paris, where the mayor is an influential figure in French politics and will oversee the 2024 Olympic Games. Parisian mayor Anne Hidalgo, a member of the Socialist Party, finished in March with a solid lead over the conservative candidate Rachida Dati.
The centrist party of French President Emmanuel Macron, three, is presenting municipal candidates for the first time and still has no local roots throughout France.
The party, Republic On The Move, has no candidates in every race and, in some cases, supports candidates from both the left and the right.
Macron’s government was criticized during the pandemic for a shortage of masks, testing capabilities and a lack of medical equipment. A government reshuffle is expected following Sunday’s elections.
Recent opinion polls show that Mr. Macron’s popularity hovers around 40%, which is higher than before the virus epidemic.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, whose popularity has increased considerably in recent weeks, is a candidate for mayor in his hometown of Le Havre.
The Conservative Republican Party, which was the big winner in the 2014 municipal elections, should once again do well thanks to its strong network of elected officials.
On the left, the Europe Ecology party – The Green party should considerably increase its influence by surpassing a traditional ally, the weakened Socialist Party.
Ecology of Europe – Greens and allies on the left seem to be able to win the mayors’ races in several major cities, including Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse. The party supports the re-election of Ms. Hidalgo in Paris.
The far-right national anti-immigration rally is focused on consolidating its 2014 results, when party-backed candidates won in 12 cities.