Greens surge in French local polls as Hi­dalgo holds Paris

The Guardian - - World - Kim Will­sher

France was swept by a green wave last night as ecol­ogy can­di­dates won a num­ber of ma­jor vic­to­ries in the coun­try’s local elec­tions.

Early re­sults sug­gested the big­gest win­ners of the de­layed vote would be the green party, Europe Ecolo­gie Les Verts (EELV), while the elec­tion de­liv­ered the pre­dicted blow to Em­manuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM) party, which has failed to take root lo­cally since it was founded four years ago.

In Paris, the mayor and favourite, Anne Hi­dalgo – who was en­gaged in a bit­ter three-way bat­tle – emerged with a large ma­jor­ity, polling just un­der half the votes cast in the cap­i­tal.

Hi­dalgo, a So­cial­ist, who is sup­ported by EELV and the Com­mu­nists, made tack­ling cli­mate change and pol­lu­tion the key el­e­ment of her elec­tion pro­gramme.

After her vic­tory was an­nounced, Hi­dalgo, in charge at City Hall for the last six years, said vot­ers had cho­sen to make Paris more “eco­log­i­cal, so­cial and hu­man­ist”. “You have cho­sen hope, team­work, a Paris that can breathe, that is bet­ter to live in, shows more sol­i­dar­ity and that leaves no­body to fall by the way­side,” she said in a brief speech.

In an elec­tion marked by the coro­n­avirus, peo­ple stayed away from the polling sta­tions, lead­ing to a his­toric level of ab­sten­tion.

The first round took place on 15 March, two days be­fore France went into a strict two-month coro­n­avirus lock­down. The sec­ond round, due to be held the fol­low­ing Sun­day, was post­poned.

Ini­tial fig­ures sug­gested only 40% of the 16.5 mil­lion in ar­eas hold­ing a sec­ond round turned out yes­ter­day to choose the may­ors and coun­cil­lors whose de­ci­sions af­fect their daily lives. By com­par­i­son, par­tic­i­pa­tion in the last local elec­tions in 2014 was 52.4%.

More than 60% of local may­ors had been al­ready de­cided in the first round, but many ma­jor ci­ties and towns re­mained up for grabs. Lyon, France’s third largest city, changed colour, with the vet­eran for­mer So­cial­ist mayor Gérard Col­lomb, rep­re­sent­ing LREM, los­ing to the EELV can­di­date.

Bordeaux, a bas­tion of the cen­treright, was also taken by the ecol­o­gists, as were Stras­bourg, Be­sançon, Poitiers,

An­necy and Tours. In Lille, the So­cial­ist party’s Mar­tine Aubrey, mayor since 2001 and daugh­ter of the “fa­ther” of the EU, Jac­ques Delors, was thought to have won a neck-and-neck bat­tle with the green can­di­date by a hand­ful of votes.

Among other main re­sults were Le Havre, where the prime min­is­ter, Édouard Philippe, re­tained his may­oral seat with 59% of the vote. Speak­ing after his vic­tory was an­nounced, Philippe de­scribed the elec­tion as an “im­por­tant demo­cratic mo­ment”. Philippe will be wait­ing to hear if he will re­turn to Le Havre sooner than ex­pected after Macron car­ries out his pre­dicted gov­ern­ment reshuf­fle in the next week or so.

In France’s south­ern­most city, Per­pig­nan, the far-right can­di­date, Louis Aliot, a for­mer part­ner of the Rassem­ble­ment Na­tional leader, Marine Le Pen, won a ma­jor vic­tory for the party.

▲ Anne Hi­dalgo, the So­cial­ist mayor of Paris, greets her vic­tory last night

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