June 30, 2020 08:23
Some are calling it an historic moment for France's Greens party, others for the environmental movement in general. The Greens went from controlling just one major French city -- Grenoble -- to capturing a string of other large and mid-sized towns, including Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg and Besançon.
"What changed this election, the most important idea is ecology," said Maud Lelievre a spokeswoman for Les Eco Maires, a group of environmentally minded local officials across France. She believes coronavirus and the lockdown helped reshape people's priorities.
Lelievre said it's more important for people, for climate, for biodiversity, for food. But turnout was low, with just 40 percent of France's electorate casting ballots.
Greens party lawmaker Yannick Jadot hailed the victory, saying the environment and solidarity drove the vote. He said he hoped President Emmanuel Macron got the message.
The vote was indeed a blow for President Macron, who faces re-election in two years. His young, centrist Republic on the Move party has yet to gain a strong local foothold. Critics say Macron has failed to deliver on his environmental promises, including fighting climate change.
On Monday, Macron promised nearly $17 billion in new climate-related financing. He is also expected to reshuffle his cabinet in the coming days. That might include ousting his popular prime minister, Edouard Philippe, who scored one of the government's rare victories in being elected mayor of the northern city of Le Havre.
In Paris, Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo won by a wide margin, with support from the Greens. Hidalgo's push to make the capital bike and pedestrian friendly has been divisive -- but it seems to have paid off. France's far right National Rally party scored one major victory, winning control of the southern city of Perpignan.
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