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Low turnout as France votes in local polls

Low turnout as France votes in local polls

AFP
Paris
French voters abstained in their millions on Sunday from a final round of municipal elections predicted to deal a blow to the party of President Emmanuel Macron.
Amid persistent fears of coronavirus contagion, just over a third of voters had turned out by 5:00 pm, three hours before polling stations close, the interior ministry said.
The turnout rate of 34.67 percent was lower even than nine hours into the first round of voting on March 15 that was marked by a record 55-percent abstention rate.
Three polling agencies predicted participation would reach no more than 41 percent by the day’s close, compared to 62.2 percent in 2014.
Polls opened for some 16.5 million eligible voters at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) in nearly 5,000 cities and towns where the first election round failed to yield a decisive outcome.
This represents about 15 percent of the country’s municipal councils where power remains up for grabs, including the key cities of Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, and Strasbourg.
The opening election round was held just as the COVID-19 pandemic was gaining deadly momentum, but the second phase, originally scheduled for March 22, was postponed after France went into lockdown.
A new date was set after the government’s scientific council said it was possible to hold another round safely, but voters were required to wear face masks and urged to bring their own pens to lower the contamination risk.
Many voters and election officials sported germ-blocking plastic visors, and plexiglass screens were erected between them at several polling stations, which also provided sanitising hand gel.
“If one can go shopping, why not go vote?” said an undeterred Martine Legros, 67, who cast her ballot in Dijon in eastern France.