Greens surge in French local polls as Hidalgo holds Paris
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