Greens triumph in second round of French local elections

France’s Green Party has swept up votes in eight out of 10 of the country’s major cities in its second round of municipal elections, following a first round of similar success from Green candidates and politicians. 

EELV - French greens
EELV - French greens
Lidia Creech

Initial results from the second round of France’s local elections show the French Green Party has made significant gains for the party, with candidates winning in eight out of 10 major cities.

The second round of voting, which took place on Sunday (28 June) after being postponed from mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, saw Europe Ecologie Les Verts (EELV) winning the mayoralty in Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Besançon, Poitiers, Annecy and Tours, while holding Grenoble. 

EELV also became the foremost political force in France’s second largest city Marseille, which has had a right-wing mayor since 1995. The mayorship of the city will be decided in the coming days.

The EELV results build on the strong performance at the 2019 European elections, where the party won 13.47 per cent of the vote to finish third nationally. 

However, the second round of elections took place against the backdrop of historically low turnout, with 41.67 per cent of voters going out to vote, down from 44.66 per cent in the first round on 15 March, and a record abstention rate of 59 per cent at the second round of elections. The low turnout is partly explained by the fact that the country went into coronavirus lockdown two days after the first round of elections. French media, however, also attribute this low turnout to the “democratic crisis” the country is currently undergoing.  

Commenting on the results, Julien Bayou, party leader of Europe Ecologie Les Verts added:  “We will not betray the trust put in us. I know that green mayors will go to work tomorrow to take care of our cities, to initiate locally the global change that the planet needs. It is a mandate to act for climate and social justice. French citizens are ready for change. So are we!

“Tonight’s success, as historic as it is, is one step forward. It doesn’t give us any rights, only responsibilities.”

The night of celebration for the Greens was in stark contrast to the one of deep disappointment for French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, Le République En Marche (LREM), which failed to secure a majority in any major city. According to centre-left newspaper Le Monde, the victory of the Greens can be seen as a “major force in opposition” to Macron. 

Macron, who has been rapidly losing left-wing support since his election in 2017, has been attempting to demonstrate his credentials on green issues for months. At the citizen’s climate convention on Monday, Macron accepted all but three of the convention’s 149 proposals.

Elsewhere, the incumbent mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, had a sweeping victory, winning just under half the votes cast. Hidalgo, who is supported by the EELV and the French Communist Party, pushed tackling climate change and pollution to the top of her political agenda. Upon her victory, she announced that France had chosen to make Paris more “ecological, social and humanist”. 

Alongside Hidalgo’s victory, prominent member of the French Socialist Party Martine Aubry was narrowly re-elected in Lille. The election of the two mayors contributed to France’s record number of female mayoral candidates, with five of the 10 major cities on track to be led by women.