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Green surge and low turnout as virus fears weigh on French local elections

Counting at a polling station in Strasbourg, France, March 14, 2020.
Counting at a polling station in Strasbourg, France, March 14, 2020. © Frédérick Florin, AFP

French voters cast their ballots Sunday in nationwide municipal elections marked by record-low turnout after the government imposed stringent restrictions on public life in an increasingly frantic effort to slow the progress of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

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  • Turnout in Sunday’s first round of voting hit a historic low of 45%, down almost 20% from the last election in 2014, as critics questioned the wisdom of holding a nationwide election amid the deadly outbreak.

 

  • Poll clerks wore latex gloves, offered disinfectant and marked out lanes with arrows on the floor showing where people should stand while some voters wore gloves and brought their own pens to sign off their vote.

 

  • Green candidates fared well in many big cities, leading the race in Lyon, Strasbourg and Grenoble, while a handful of candidates from the far-right National Rally were re-elected with outright majorities.

 

  • In the most keenly watched race, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo took a commanding lead with 30% of the first-round ballot, 8 points ahead of her conservative challenger; the candidate for Macron’s ruling party was a distant third.

 

  • Running for re-election in Le Havre, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe topped the first round but faced the prospect of a tough run-off vote against a united left.

 

  • Philippe said a decision would be made in the coming days on whether to press ahead with the second round as several opposition leaders called for the March 22 vote to be postponed amid the worsening coronavirus outbreak.

 

  • Health officials said the number of deaths from the virus in France increased by more than a third on Sunday to 127, with more than 5,423 people infected.

 

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