Despite everything, David, 72, a retired employee of a car manufacturer, announced today that he will vote for Anne Hidalgo, the woman who has run Paris for six years, in the municipal elections in the French capital. “She has done great things for Paris and I hope she will do more,” he replies, “but …” The sentence remains on hold.
Life in France, as elsewhere, has been in a hiatus induced by the coronavirus since the first round of municipal elections which took place across the country in March. The second round was canceled because France was subjected to a strict lock.
More than three months later, Jérôme Fourquet of the political pollster Ifop says that the thoughts of his compatriots are elsewhere. “With all that has happened, these elections do not seem very important for many French people,” he said. “I don’t think their heads are in there right now, so we’ll probably see a high level of abstention. ”
In Paris, where the end of the locking restrictions coincided with a summer heat wave, it was a race for three. Hidalgo, representing the socialist party in alliance with the Greens and the Communists, is the favorite, followed by Rachida Dati, who was Minister of Justice in the government of Nicolas Sarkozy. Agnès Buzyn, former Minister of Health representing the Emmanuel Macron party La République en Marche (LREM) is in third position.
Outside the capital, interest in the country’s municipal elections is concentrated on a few political hot spots, including the possible re-election of French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe to the town hall of Le Havre; a battle of six candidates in Marseille; and if the far right party of the Marine Le Pen national rally will take Perpignan.
Fourquet doubts that LREM will win many town halls – the new centrist party has failed to make a local mark where most mayors still represent traditional left-to-right parties – but rejected suggestions that would cause major damage to Macron and his government.
“I don’t think the election will have a lot of national consequences,” he said. “On paper, the figures suggest that Emmanuel Macron is rejected by the French people, but if we compare his popularity with that of his predecessor at the same period of his mandate, he is in a much better position. Whatever happens, it’s certainly not over for Macron. ”
A straw poll of Parisians basking in the weekend sun on Place de la République, where circular traffic and pollution are back to pre-Covid-19 levels, shows that most want the same: a cleaner, greener, more orderly city. They only agree on who will deliver it.
Hidalgo has promised to continue its largely popular campaign to drive motorists out of the capital with 50 km or more of new bike paths, new pedestrian areas, more parks and greenery, and social housing.
Dati, on the other hand, has felt growing anger over the inability of the town hall to deal with the escalating litter problem, deteriorating streets and street furniture and growing concerns about crime and security .
The three candidates promise more local police, although Dati and Buzyn, unlike Hidalgo, want them to be fully armed.
Fatima Abdellaoui, 39, a doctor from Marseille, said she wanted the city to do more to help the many homeless people in Paris, but supported Hidalgo. On the other side of the square, Jean-Claude, 74, a retired sailor, said he would vote for Dati, currently the city’s most expensive mayor of the 7th arrondissement. “His borough is clean and has no problems,” said Jean-Claude. “Here, people do just what they want.”
Mathieu, who maintains a newsstand in the square, said he was undecided. “We need someone to change mindsets and make people more respectful,” he said.
Laurine Da Costa, 19, a film student in the Parisian suburbs, said she would vote, but added, “Will it change much? Probably not. The problem is not that local politicians lack initiative, it is essentially a lack of money. I’m not sure the election will change that. ”
Despite the fact that a British newspaper described Paris as “hideous” last week, dozens of couples were to be seen dancing salsa at sunset on Place de la République. The happy scene after months of sadness was pure city of light.