France Sees Lowest Turnout in Local Elections amid Coronavirus Epidemic
The French government might postpone the second round of the 2020 municipal elections.
France, one of the EU countries worst hit by a coronavirus epidemic, saw on Sunday a historic low turnout as it voted in the first round of its 2020 local elections.
Only 45% of the eligible voters cast their ballots, almost 20% fewer than in the last French local elections in 2014.
On Sunday, the voting day, France’s coronavirus deaths jumped by a third, to a total of 127, with more than 5,423 people infected, France24 reported.
Political figures and the general public questioned the decision of the French government to hold a nationwide election in the midst of the epidemic, just as the authorities had imposed stringent restrictive measures on public gatherings in an attempt to slow the progress of the coronavirus outbreak.
During the local election voting on Sunday, French poll clerks wore latex gloves, provided disinfectant and marked out lanes with arrows on the floor showing where people should stand.
At the same time, some voters wore gloves and brought their own pens to sign off their vote.
In the first round of France’s 2020 local elections, green candidates saw a moderate surge in a number of big cities, leading the mayoral races in Lyon, Strasbourg and Grenoble.
Several candidates of the far-right National Rally (former National Front) were re-elected as mayors with outright majorities.
In Paris, incumbent Mayor Anne Hidalgo of the Socialist Party received 30% of the first-round ballot, 8 points ahead of the conservative challenger, while the candidate from President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party remained a distant third.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who was running for re-election in Le Havre, topped the first round but faced the prospect of a tough run-off vote against a united left. Philippe served as mayor of Le Havre in 2010 – 2017, and upon resigning to lead the French government, he retained a seat on the municipal council.
Public criticism over the holding of elections amid the coronavirus outbreak might lead the French authorities to postpone the second round of the municipal polls presently scheduled for March 22.
“At the beginning of the week, I will reconvene the scientific council. Then I will consult the representatives of the political parties. It is in total transparency, taking into account the health recommendations, and I hope the spirit of republican consensus that we will take the necessary measures,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
(Banner image: TV grab from France24)