Wearing face masks, French voters return to delayed municipal elections
Voters in France donned face masks to cast their ballots on Sunday in a delayed second round of country-wide municipal elections, a mid-term test for President Emmanuel Macron and his ruling party which could fail to win a single big city.
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A year ago, French President Macron had hoped the local elections would help anchor his young party in towns and cities across France, including Paris, ahead of an anticipated 2022 re-election bid. But more recently, presidential aides have been playing down expectations.
In the capital, the election's biggest prize, the sitting socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo is on track for a comfortable win after a shambolic campaign by Macron and his La Republique en Marche (LaRem) party.
Macron's first pick for Paris quit over a sex tape scandal, leaving the president's former health minister to jump in a month before the first round.
Paris is unlikely to be the only disappointment for Macron.
The Greens are projected to do well in cities such as Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux, sometimes in alliance with the Left, building on momentum they created in 2019's European elections. In Perpignan, Marine Le Pen's far-right party may take control of its first city with a population more than 100,000.
France pressed ahead with the first round of the municipal elections in mid-March, less than 48 hours before Macron imposed one of Europe's strictest lockdowns, forcing a long delay before the second round.
A government reshuffle is widely expected, with the biggest question mark over the future of Edouard Philippe, Macron's popular prime minister. Philippe is running for his old job as mayor of Le Havre.