The Irish Times view on the French election: a green surge

Municipal elections can be a poor guide to national performance

The incumbent mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, arrives to deliver a speech after winning the second round of the French municipal elections on Sunday. Photograph: Julien de Rosa/EPA

The incumbent mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, arrives to deliver a speech after winning the second round of the French municipal elections on Sunday. Photograph: Julien de Rosa/EPA

 

The Greens were the clear winners in the second round of France’s municipal elections on Sunday, but theirs is an ambiguous victory. The environmental alliance Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV) wrested control of Bordeaux city hall from the centre-right, which has held the city since the second World War, and won resounding victories in Lyon, Strasbourg and Besancon.

Even where EELV itself did not prevail, its ideas often did. In Paris, where the socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo held on for a second term in office, it was thanks to support from the Greens and a policy platform dominated by climate action, cycling and sustainability.

Macron v Le Pen is the dominant duel in national politics, and their rivalry will shape the 2022 election

The two blocs that dominated French politics for most of the past half-century, the Socialists and the centre-right party now known as Les Républicains, had mixed results. The socialists’ ex-leader Martine Aubry narrowly won re-election as mayor of Lille, and the party retained control in Paris, Nantes, Rennes, Rouen and a number of other strongholds. After the rout the party suffered in the 2014 local elections, that felt like consolidation.

Six months into his presidency, Emmanuel Macron of France already has important achievements to his name. Photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
France's municipal elections: Emmanuel Macron’s party suffered a thumping defeat in Paris and failed to win big elsewhere. File photograph: Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Similarly, Les Républicains, despite losing power in Marseille and Bordeaux, continues to run half of all towns with more than 9,000 inhabitants. Yet both the socialists and Les Républicains must know that local elections in France can often be a poor guide to national performance.

The showing of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist La République en Marche and Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National (RN) underscores the point. Both failed to make a breakththrough: Macron’s party suffered a thumping defeat in Paris and failed to win big elsewhere, while RN’s victory in Perpignan was an isolated success.

What has emerged then is two political tracks. Macron v Le Pen is the dominant duel in national politics, and their rivalry will shape the 2022 election. But at local level, it is the three parties with the deepest regional roots and networks – the socialists, the Greens and the centre-right – who remain in control.

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