French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was elected mayor of the northern port city of Le Havre on Sunday, a rare bright spot for President Emmanuel Macron on a day of nationwide municipal elections in which his party is projected to perform poorly.
Philippe’s victory could lead to a government reshuffle, although the French constitution allows him to appoint someone else to act as mayor while he remains prime minister.
Macron, who could emerge from the municipal elections without winning a single contest in a big city, congratulated his premier for a “beautiful victory”. His Elysee Palace office said the two men would meet on Monday.
“We will celebrate this victory,” Philippe told supporters.
People voted in low numbers and wearing face masks in the second round of the municipal elections, which had been delayed for months by the coronavirus crisis lockdown.
An early exit poll showed Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally) winning in Perpignan, which if confirmed would be the first time the party takes control of a town with a population of more than 100,000 people.Slideshow (9 Images)
A year ago Macron had hoped the local elections would help anchor his young centrist party in towns and cities across France, including Paris, ahead of an anticipated 2022 re-election bid. But more recently, presidential aides have been playing down expectations.
France’s 35,000 mayors set policy on issues from urban planning to education and the environment. While local factors typically drive voter choices, they give the electorate an opportunity to support or punish a president mid-mandate.
“We have a government that is completely disconnected from reality,” said Naouel, a voter in Paris’ 9th district who said she was backing the centre-right opposition candidate.
Turnout was just 40.5%, interior ministry data showed.