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French local elections: Macron hopes to secure party’s future, but faces serious contenders

Jess Willes | Dods Monitoring

4 min read

Ahead of French local elections this month, Jessica Willes explores how the outcome will change the political landscape in France given internal party struggles, political alliances and the emergence of new parties. 

Over the next fortnight, the French population will go to the polling stations (despite the spread of coronavirus throughout the country) as they vote in local elections. The first round will take place on March 15th and the second on March 22nd. The first local elections to be held since Emmanuel Macron became President in 2017 and the impressive win of his newly formed party, La République En Marche, in the 2017 legislative elections (for the National Assembly). Despite the substantial majority La République En Marche has in the National Assembly, Macron’s popularity has continuously plummeted since 2017, especially since the “yellow vests” crisis which began in 2018 and the months-long strikes over pension reform at the end of last year.

Consequently, these local elections are even more important and could put an end to the composition of the ongoing reconfiguration of a new political landscape which began in 2017. Recent polls are showing that two-thirds of Macron’s voters wish to see their current mayor re-elected, even if they do not belong to La République En Marche, which means historical political parties, who previously held, such as the left-wing party Le Parti Socialiste, and the right-wing party Les Républicains, see these elections as their lifeline for survival.

It appears likely that Les Républicains will fare better than Le Parti Socialiste in this election as they are favourites to win the mayorship of large cities like Bordeaux and Toulouse. Whereas the left in France is considerably fragmented between Le Parti Socialiste, La France Insoumise and Les Verts who are undeniably growing in popularity, a split in the vote will most likely hinder the success of all left-wing parties.

Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, Le Rassemblement National, are hopeful they will win the mayorship of a large city for the first time in Perpignan, this would be a major success for the far-right party.

Almost all the programs being presented by the different parties contain the same topics, suggesting they all acknowledge and understand the French population’s current concerns: sustainability, transport, housing, employment and fiscality are in all programs with similar policies.

The only major differences are that the right-wing parties, Les Républicains and Le Rassemblement National, have included policies on security whereas the other main parties haven’t focused on this as much. This could prove to be a wise decision on their behalf given that according to polls, most of the French population would like to see their mayor attributed more power when it comes to security.

Several Ministers and Secretaries of State will also be running in the local elections – a risky move as a loss could jeopardize their credibility. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will be running for re-election in Le Havre and is currently polling at 42% in the first round, an impressive score given his current approval ratings nationwide. Former Health Secretary Agnès Buzyn is now running as La République En Marche’s candidate in Paris following the demise of Benjamin Griveaux, this will be a tough city to win given that she is currently only polling at 20% in the first round, but if she wins this will be a major success for Macron’s party and will ensure they remain at the forefront of the political landscape even if the party’s popularity wanes across the rest of the country.

The outcome of these elections is hard to predict given the recent political changes in France: internal party struggles, the composition of political alliances and the emergence of new parties, however, they will be a telling sign of what’s to come in the next Senatorial elections which are due to take place only 6 months from now and then, the 2022 Presidential elections.


To download the complementary report click HERE

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