Emmanuel Macron humiliation: French President hit with devastating blow in local elections

Shared pens were disinfected between voters

Only 40% of voters cast ballots as French voters were required to wear masks, maintain social distancing while in lines and carry their own pens to sign voting registers.

France's Greens party yesterday urged President Emmanuel Macron to prioritise the environment as it savoured big wins in municipal elections, seen by many as a rebuke of the centrist leader's top-down governing style during his first three years in office.

Around 60% of voters abstained - a historical record.

It is the second round of polls for mayors and municipal councillors, which was delayed because of the coronavirus lockdown.

In Paris incumbent Mayor Anne Hidalgo - whose Socialist party has been all but wiped out at a national level - won comfortably.

Many voters and election officials sported germ-blocking plastic visors, and plexiglass screens were erected between them at several polling stations, which also provided sanitising hand gel.

A year ago, Macron had hoped the local elections would help anchor his young party in towns and cities across France, including Paris, ahead of an anticipated 2022 re-election bid.

The party made lacklustre showings in March - notably in Paris where Macron's candidate, former health minister Agnes Buzyn, came third. "She had no concrete proposals", said one retired voter who gave her name as Jacqueline.

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With a death toll approaching 30,000, France has been badly hit by the pandemic.

The first round of municipal elections took place in mid-March, less than 48 hours before Macron imposed one of Europe's strictest lockdowns and turnout for the second round appears to be low. Voting started just hours after the government ordered all restaurants and bars closed. Most restrictions have now been eased.

Macron's critics say he is a president of the rich and out of touch with ordinary people.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, whose popularity has significantly increased in recent weeks, won a large victory in his hometown of Le Havre where he was running for mayor.

President Macron said he would support the creation of a crime of ecocide in discussions with global organisations and that he is studying the possibility of introducing it into French law.

The anti-immigration, far-right National Rally, led by Marine Le Pen, was focusing on consolidating its 2014 results, when candidates backed by the party won in 12 towns.

Firing Philippe would allow Macron "to claim he is delivering on his promise to ensure the "second act" of his presidency takes note of failings revealed by his handling of the Covid-19 crisis", said Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group risk consultancy.

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