French local election exit poll puts Socialist Paris mayor in lead

Paris Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo
Incumbent Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo beat President Emmanuel Macron's candidate into a distant third place in the first round of local elections in the French capital on Sunday, an IPSOS exit poll showed.

With 30%, Hidalgo, a Socialist, was comfortably ahead of conservative rival Rachida Dati's 22% and the 17.7% garnered by Macron's official candidate, former health minister Agnes Buzyn.

A dissident from Macron's party, Cedric Villani, won 8%.

In Paris, mayoral elections follow a complicated two-round system in seventeen districts, which each elect a certain number of delegates, similar to the US presidential election.

Lists of candidates above 5 percent can merge ahead of the runoff, making final results hard to predict.

But the results of the first round, which may be cancelled if the second round cannot go ahead because of the coronavirus outbreak, are a blow to Macron, especially when compared to the 33% his party, En Marche, won in Paris in European elections last year.

Macron's plan to conquer Paris City Hall had become near impossible after Villani, one of his lawmakers who was eventually kicked out, decided to defy the president and challenge the ruling party's official candidate.

Losing Paris would be a blow to Macron's plan to build a local power base for his party and make inroads into the last bastion of the old establishment dominated by socialists or conservatives.

However, it wasn't bad all around for Macron, as two of his ministers, Gerald Darmanin and Franck Riester, won the city halls of Tourcoing in the north and Coulommiers near Paris straight from the first round, with over 50 percent of the vote.

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