PARIS (AP) – France is holding the second round of municipal elections on Sunday in 5,000 cities postponed due to the outbreak of the country’s corona virus.
The vote to fill local offices in Paris and thousands of other places was suspended after the first round of the national municipal elections on March 15, yielding decisive results in some 30,000 other, mostly small, municipalities.
Voters elect mayors and city councilors to polling stations operating under strict hygiene regulations on Sunday. Facial masks, soap or hand sanitizers and keeping 1 meter (about 3 feet) between each person in lines is mandatory. Voters must bring their own pens to sign the register.
The spread of the coronavirus has slowed considerably in recent weeks in France and almost all restrictions on social and business activities have been gradually lifted in the past month. France has reported nearly 200,000 confirmed cases and 29,781 deaths in the pandemic.
But the virus is still expected to harm Sunday’s turnout, such as in March. Only 44.7% of the voters, a record high, voted in the first round of the municipal elections.
The elections, while seemingly focused on local interests, are also seen as an important political indicator prior to the 2022 French presidential election.
The main battlefield is Paris, where the mayor is an influential figure in French politics and will oversee the 2024 Olympics. Paris Mayor Annie Hidalgo, member of the Socialist Party, ended in March with a strong lead over conservative candidate Rachida Dati.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s three-year centrist party is shedding municipal candidates for the first time and still lacks local roots across France. The party, Republic on the Move, does not have candidates in every race and in some cases supports candidates from both the left and right.
During the pandemic, the Macron government was criticized for mask shortages, test capacity and a lack of medical equipment. After Sunday’s elections, a reshuffle of the government is expected.
Recent polls show that Macron’s popularity rating hovers around 40%, which is higher than before the virus outbreak.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, whose popularity has increased significantly in recent weeks, is running for mayor in his hometown of Le Havre.
The conservative Republican party, which was the big winner in the 2014 municipal elections, is expected to perform well again based on its strong network of elected officials.
On the left, the Europe Ecology-Greens party appears to be significantly increasing its influence by outpacing a traditional ally, the weakened Socialist Party.
Europe Ecology-The Greens and left-wing allies seem to be able to win the mayor matches in several major cities, including Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse. The party supports the re-election of Hidalgo in Paris.
The far-right national rally against immigration focuses on consolidating the results of 2014, when candidates supported by the party won in 12 cities.
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