PARIS (AP) – Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo declared her victory for her re-election in the French capital on Sunday, which will allow her to oversee the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Hidalgo, a member of the Socialist Party, defeated the conservative candidate Rachida Dati in municipal elections in France, according to estimates based on partial results. She was elected mayor of Paris for the first time in 2014.
It is supported by the Europe Ecology-The Greens party, which gained strong influence across the country in Sunday’s vote.
The second round of municipal elections, which had been postponed due to the coronavirus crisis, had a record voter turnout amid concerns over the pandemic.
Only 40% of voters voted because French voters were required to wear masks, maintain social distance when they are online and wear their own pen to sign the voting lists.
The poll organizers wore masks and protective gloves, and in some places they were separated from the voters by transparent plastic shields. Postal voting is not allowed in France.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, in charge of organizing the elections, said that “today, everywhere in France, sanitary measures … have been respected. It’s a satisfaction. He however “regretted” the low turnout.
Projections of opinion polls, based on the first ballots processed, show a strong breakthrough by the Greens and their allies in many large and medium-sized cities.
Voting was suspended after the first round of the national municipal elections on March 15, which produced decisive results in 30,000 municipalities, most of them small. Macron’s critics say he would not have allowed the first round to take place at all, as it took place just as infections exploded across Europe and just two days before France introduced extensive nationwide foreclosure measures.
The spread of the coronavirus 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 experts estimate that all of the figures reported are underestimated due to limited testing and mild missed cases.
The elections, although clearly focused on local concerns, are also considered a key political indicator before the French presidential election in 2022.
Macron had said that he did not consider the elections to be a pro or anti-government vote.
However, a government reshuffle is expected in the coming weeks, as Macron seeks new political momentum amid the economic difficulties caused by the virus crisis. French authorities were criticized during the pandemic for a shortage of masks, a test of ability and the continuation of the first round of elections instead of imposing an earlier blockage.
Recent opinion polls show Macron’s popularity hovering around 40%, which is higher than before the virus epidemic.
Macron’s 3-year-old centrist party presented municipal candidates for the first time and still has no local roots across France. The party, Republic on the Move, does not have candidates in every race and, in some cases, supports candidates from the left or the right.
Republic on the Move has set a modest target of 10,000 city councilors across France and has already admitted that it is not in the running in many large cities where local figures on the left or right are better placed.
Government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye said, “We were the opponents of this election,” noting that planting local roots “takes time.”
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, whose popularity has increased considerably in recent weeks, won a great victory in his hometown of Le Havre where he ran for mayor.
The Conservative Republican Party, which was the big winner in the 2014 municipal elections and has a strong network of local elected officials, seems to be doing well again.
The national far-right anti-immigration rally won a symbolic victory in the city of Perpignan, which has more than 120,000 inhabitants in the south of France.
Alex Turnbull contributed to this report.
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