The results of the second round of municipal elections in France’s major cities on Sunday will be eagerly awaited, with polls in Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Bordeaux suggesting a very lively evening.
Around 30,000 mayors have already won their seats during the first round of elections on March 5 by garnering an outright majority, but in most of France’s major cities the final result is not a foregone conclusion. On June 28, voters in Paris, Marseille and Lyon, in particular, will choose who will run their cities for the next six years.
After an interlude of more than three months between the two rounds due to the Covid-19 health crisis, the winners in these cities will earn a prestigious victory, both for themselves and for their parties. The Europe Ecology-Greens party (EELV) could well be the big winner, unlike French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM), which has few candidates still on the ballot in France’s major cities.
In Paris, Marseille and Lyon, voters cast their ballots not for individual mayoral candidates but for gender-balanced lists of party council members. If no list garners more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, those that received more than 10 percent of the vote proceed to a second round. Candidates who earned more than 5 percent but less than the 10 percent needed to qualify may join another list at this stage. The elected council members then go on to choose a mayor at their first meeting.
Paris: Anne Hidalgo feeling confident
Three candidates remain in contention in the capital after a chaotic campaign: incumbent Socialist Party mayor Anne Hidalgo, whose list led the first round with 29.3 percent of the vote; former minister Rachida Dati for Les Républicains (LR, 22.7 percent); and the LREM candidate Agnès Buzyn (17.3 percent).
The unusually long interlude between rounds strengthened Hidalgo’s position, giving her time to make a deal with environmentalists (10.8 percent). Former LREM candidate Cédric Villani, though, whose list came in fifth in the first round (7.9 percent), declined to support any of the remaining candidates.
As a result, 44 percent of likely voters plan to vote for Hidalgo’s list, according to the polling organisation IFOP, as opposed to 33 percent for Dati’s and 20 percent for Buzyn’s.
Marseille: Uncertainty about the post-Gaudin era
The outcome of the election is more uncertain than ever in Marseilles, a stronghold of LR that was run by Jean-Claude Gaudin for 25 years. This year, though, the left came out on top in the first round.
The campaign erupted in turmoil in mid-June with the opening of an investigation into possible fraud on the part of LR, which added to the difficulties of that party’s candidate Martine Vassal. The longtime politician is now working to defend herself against those accusations and has launched a counterattack by raising the spectre of a “red peril”.
On the left, the Marseille Spring list was buoyed by its first-round results, performing well even in areas that were traditionally bastions of the right and has won the support of the EELV.
The winner of the mayoral race in Marseille may not be known until the “third round”, when a majority of the city council must vote to elect him or her.
Lyon: Within reach of the Greens
Will the Greens take over the capital of the Gauls? After a strong showing in the first round, barring a complete turnaround of voters, EELV candidate Grégory Doucet is the favourite to be the next mayor.
The same outcome is likely on the broader metropolitan level. On March 15, the Greens came out on top in 8 of the 14 constituencies of the metropolis, enough to hope for victory on June 28. Still, voter participation levels and the delay of the vote leave the outcome uncertain.
Most likely, the election will be decided in the “third round”, when the councillors of Greater Lyon will have to designate their president. Without a clear majority, the game of negotiations will be very open. Only one thing looks certain: The LREM party will lose its fiefdom.
Strasbourg: The LREM surprise?
In Strasbourg, where the outgoing mayor, Roland Ries, is not standing for re-election after two consecutive terms, his protégé, LREM candidate Alain Fontanel, 51, seems to be holding the line, potentially offering Macron’s party one of its few victories in the municipal elections.
Fontanel, the current first deputy mayor, came in second in the first round with 20 percent of the vote, but was well behind the environmentalist candidate Jeanne Barseghian (28 percent). But Barseghian, who needed an agreement with Socialist Catherine Trautmann (third with 19 percent) to consolidate her lead, failed to reach an agreement with the former mayor of Strasbourg.
Bordeaux: The Green candidate facing outward
It was expected to be a four-way race after 73 years of first-round right-wing mayoral victories. In the end, though, there were only three lists in Bordeaux: outgoing LR mayor Nicolas Florian formed an alliance with LREM candidate Thomas Cazenave, whose list had garnered 12.69 percent of the vote in the first round. That’s not much for a presidential party, but enough to give a little oxygen to the heir of former mayor Alain Juppé, whose list beat out that of left-wing environmentalist Pierre Hurmic by only 96 votes (34.56 percent against 34.38 percent).
Florian and Cazenave maintain that 80 percent of their programmes overlap and invoke the health crisis to explain their alliance. Hurmic, who has been in the municipal opposition for 25 years, hopes to bring together a large number of environmentalists on the left.
Lille: Martine Aubry for a fourth term?
In Lille, three candidates qualified for the second round: Martine Aubry, Socialist Party mayor since 2001, who came first in the first round (29.8 percent) ahead of ecologist Stéphane Baly (24.5 percent), and her former cabinet director Violette Spillebout (17.5 percent), who ran under the banner of the presidential party.
While the Greens left their intentions in doubt, Aubry and Baly announced that they would not form an alliance.
On the other hand, Aubry received the support of the right-wing in Lille who called for a blockade of the Greens, whom they described as “madmen”, “extremists” and “Marxist ecologists”.
Spillebout, who has resumed her position as an executive at SNCF, will go it alone after refusing an alliance with the right (8.2 percent).
Le Havre: Édouard Philippe in a duel
In Le Havre, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who came first in the first round with 43.60 percent of the votes, will face the deputy from the French Communist Party Jean-Paul Lecoq in the second round, who won a surprise 35.88 percent of the vote in the first round.
The Prime Minister has since been at the forefront of the Covid-19 crisis, gaining a sharp rise in popularity on the national level. An IFOP poll published last week showed him winning 53 percent of likely votes in the second round, compared to 47 percent for Lecoq. Philippe was the mayor of this city from 2010 to 2017.
Seven parliamentarians from other regions, including one EELV, voiced their support for Lecoq, thereby stigmatising the candidature of the Prime Minister, saying he “would be a phantom mayor” after he confirmed that he would favour his position as PM over that of mayor if elected.
Perpignan: “Republican front” uncertain against National Rally
On his fourth attempt, National Rally (RN) candidate Louis Aliot looks set to conquer Perpignan, unless the “Republican front” that is trying to form around outgoing LR mayor Jean-Marc Pujol manages to bring together left, centre and right, as in 2014.
Elected to Parliament in 2017, the former companion of far-right right politician Marine Le Pen’s won 35.6 percent of the vote in the first round, versus Pujol, who gained only 18.4 percent of the vote, far less than in 2014 (30 percent) when he defeated Aliot in the second round.
Having qualified for the second round, ecologist Agnès Langevine (EELV-PS, 14.5 percent), vice-president of the Occitanie region, and LREM deputy Romain Grau (13 percent) made a “Republican withdrawal”, hoping to prevent Aliot’s victory. But on both the left and the right, anti-Aliot mobilisation is uncertain. Three of Romain Grau’s aides voted for the RN deputy.
In the event of Aliot’s victory, Perpignan, with its 120,000 inhabitants, would be the largest city won by the extreme right since Toulon (1995-2001).
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
This article was translated from the original in French.