France's first round of local elections took place on Sunday, 15 March - despite the virus pandemic and against President Macron's wishes to postpone the vote. As expected, turnout was extremely low. The second round, scheduled for next Sunday, 21 March has been postponed due to the corona crisis. Here we give some results from the first round of voting in the Côte d'Azur.
In France, the municipal government is elected every six years. The party that achieves an absolute majority in the first round establishes the mayor. If no candidate has received at least 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, a second-round is held, in which only a simple majority is required to win.
Last Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron had initially planned to postpone the local elections in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, educational institutions and all non-essential businesses would be closed and citizens would be required to limit all contact. However, this proposal met with disapproval, especially from the right-wing of the opposition, so it was agreed that the elections would take place as planned on 15 March. Cities exercised extreme caution with health and safety, however, the public was understandably tense. After voting himself, Cannes Mayor, David Lisnard, described the event as "an unprecedented and sometimes surreal context".
In a speech to the nation on Monday evening, Macron announced the postponement of the next voting round, as an obvious consequence of the full quarantine for all citizens. A possible date has been suggested for 21 June, however, no definitive decision has been made.
According to preliminary estimates, between 44 and 46 per cent of voters in France dared to go to the polling stations, which is the lowest turnout for the Fifth Republic, founded in 1958. Here you can see the results for each commune.
Here is a selection of results from the first round of voting in the Côte d'Azur, where the biggest surprise was Nice's mayor Christian Estrosi, who will have to prove himself in the second round after terribly low voter turnout in the Metropole.
Antibes - Voter turnout: 30.27%
The cardiologist and Republican candidate Jean Leonetti has been the mayor of Antibes since 1995. He was able to defend his post in the first round with 52.89 per cent of the vote.
Cannes - Voter turnout: 31.18%
Spectacular results for the film capital Cannes, where current mayor David Lisnard (Republican-Democrat Independent List LR-UDI) was re-elected with a stunning 88 per cent of the vote. In his reaction to the results, Mayor Lisnard said: "I know the significance of the office, its physical and moral demands, which make the mayor's mandate the most demanding and beautiful of all mandates." He then wished everyone continued courage through the following weeks of quarantine.
Grasse - Voter turnout: 36.27%
In Grasse, too, the current mayor, Jérôme Viaud, will take up a second term of office thanks to 52.40 per cent of the perfume capital's vote.
Menton - Voter turnout: 41.37%
In Menton, no candidate was able to achieve an absolute majority on Sunday. Whether the success story of Jean-Claude Guibal (Republican), the mayor of Menton since 1989 and therefore in office for almost 31 years, can continue will only become clear in the second round. Guibal received 45.05 per cent, rival Olivier Bettati with 29.52 per cent.
Nice - Voter turnout: 28.54%
Mayor Christian Estrosi, who tested positive for coronavirus Monday afternoon, scored best in Nice with 47.62 per cent, but the missing 2.38 percentage points make the second round inevitable. Estrosi remained rather modest when the results were announced: "I have the honour to lead this list that has been at the top of this election. ... However, at a time when our fellow citizens are worried, it is not appropriate to rejoice or to draw a political analysis from these results." In an interview via Skype with France 3, Côte d'Azur, Mr Estrosi reiterarated his commitment to the health and well-being of the people over any political commentary, pointing out that he stopped his campaign three weeks before voting to fully concentrate on protective measures for the people and personnel of Nice Metropole. He did state that he is relieved that the second vote has been postponed.
Valbonne - Voter turnout: 45.34%
In Valbonne, two socialists, the current mayor, Christophe Etoré and his predecessor Marc Daunis, who had handed over the mayorship to the former in 2016, had to split the votes of the electorate, enabling Joseph Cesaro with 33.18 per cent, to win the most votes for the Green party. However, nothing has been decided in Valbonne as they must head to the second round.
Saint Tropez - Voter turnout: 54.01%
885 votes or 37.48 per cent are not enough for the current mayor Jean-Pierre Tuveri. On his heels is Frederic Blua with 29.44 per cent. Here too, the second round will have to bring the final result.
In the Var, the overall turnout was 40.90 per cent with 803,942 votes cast - 23.53 percentage points lower than in the last local elections in 2014.