The exit polls showed that the Greens had won in Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Strasbourg, building on the momentum created by their solid performance in France in last year’s European Parliament elections.
But in Perpignan, the far-right National Rally of Marine Le Pen won, the first time that the anti-EU protectionist party takes control of a city of more than 100,000 inhabitants.
Yannick Jadot, a legislator of the European Parliament of Europe Ecology – The Greens, hailed an historic victory.
“It’s an incredible green wave,” he said.
In Paris, the biggest prize of all, practicing socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo celebrated the victory after a rowdy campaign at Macron’s camp.
The 35,000 mayors of France have defined policies ranging from town planning to education and the environment. Although local factors generally determine voters’ choices, they give the electorate the opportunity to support or punish a mid-term president.
“We have a government that is completely out of touch with reality,” said Naouel, a voter in the 9th arrondissement of Paris who said she supported the center-right opposition candidate.
In this second ballot, voter turnout was low and people were wearing masks due to the new coronavirus pandemic. The first round took place just days before Macron imposed one of the strictest locks in Europe in mid-March.
The participation rate was only 40.5%, according to data from the Ministry of the Interior.
Macron’s poor performance of La République en Marche will prompt the President to wonder deeply, who, approaching the vote, declared that he wished to reinvent his presidency with two years remaining in his mandate.
At the start of his presidency, Macron’s left-wing opponents mocked him as “president of the wealthy” as he relaxed corporate taxes and relaxed worker protection as he enacted reforms to liberalize the French economy obstructed by regulations.
The reforms are bearing fruit: growth is robust among eurozone peers and stubbornly high unemployment is falling.
But the past three years have been plunged into social unrest, and the impact of the pandemic cancels out some of Macron’s hard-fought gains, as disillusionment among his party’s left faction increases.
The superb performance of the Greens on Sunday could persuade Macron to put more emphasis on the environment in his policies if he seeks to strengthen his support for the left.
“Ecology is the area where Macron is seen to have done nothing,” said Frédéric Dabi, director of the Ifop pollster. “The French will want results on green issues.”
Macron will hold talks with his prime minister on Monday, presidential officials said.
Asked about Philippe’s future, a source close to Macron said: “The following will be a continuation”.
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