But aid had more recently downplayed expectations, and the massive victories of the Greens, who in some cities joined forces with left allies, could force Macron to reshuffle his government to win back left-wing voters deprived of their rights.
In a rare bright spot for Macron, his Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, won his candidacy to become mayor of the port city of Le Havre, in the north of the country. Although the French constitution allows Philippe to appoint someone to act as mayor while he remains prime minister, his victory deepens questions about his work as prime minister.
Exit polls have shown that the Greens had won in Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Strasbourg, building on the momentum created by their strong performance in France in last year’s European Parliament elections.
Yannick Jadot, a lawmaker in the European Parliament of Europe Ecology – The Greens, hailed an historic victory.
“It’s an incredible green wave,” he said.
In Paris, the biggest prize of all, practicing socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo celebrated the victory after a rowdy campaign from Macron’s camp.
The 35,000 mayors of France have defined policies ranging from town planning to education and the environment. Although local factors generally determine voters’ choices, they give the electorate the opportunity to support or punish a president in the middle of his or her term.
“We have a government that is completely out of touch with reality,” said Naouel, a voter in the 9th arrondissement of Paris who said she supported the center-right opposition candidate.
In Perpignan, the far-right Rassemblement National (Rassemblement National) of Marine Le Pen won, the first time the anti-EU protectionist party has taken control of a city of more than 100,000 inhabitants.
In this second ballot, voter turnout was low and people were wearing masks due to the new coronavirus pandemic. The first round took place just days before Macron imposed one of the most stringent locks in Europe in mid-March.
The participation rate was only 40.5 percent, according to data from the Interior Ministry.
Macron’s weak performance in La République en Marche will prompt the president, who, approaching the vote, has said he wants to reinvent his presidency with two years in office.
At the start of his presidency, Macron’s left opponents mocked him as “the president of the wealthy” as he relaxed corporate taxes and relaxed worker protection as he passed reforms to liberalize the French economy obstructed by regulations.
The reforms are bearing fruit: growth is robust among eurozone peers and stubbornly high unemployment is falling.
But the past three years have been plunged into social unrest and the impact of the pandemic cancels out some of Macron’s hard-fought gains, as disillusionment among his party’s left faction increases.