Coronavirus crisis: French voters want mayoral elections to go ahead despite outbreak

The poll, conducted by OpinionWay for UNCCAS-Public Sénat-La Tribune, showed that 76 percent of French people are in favour of sticking to the current voting schedule despite the worsening health crisis. Twenty two percent of respondents, however, said it would be best “to wait for the end of the epidemic” to hold the two-round vote. Two percent did not have an opinion.

However, 71 percent of those interviewed told pollsters they were “not concerned” about entering a polling station despite the high risk of contagion in public places.

President Emmanuel Macron, for his part, warned this week that the country was heading towards a coronavirus epidemic.

 M Macron said in a video posted on the Elysée palace website: “There is a moment when we all know that … an epidemic is inexorable.”

France had recorded 423 cases of the virus as of late Thursday, up by 138 in one day, according to the national health service – the biggest daily jump thus far.

Seven people have died from coronavirus infection in France, the deputy head of the health ministry, Jérôme Salomon, told reporters.

Twenty-three people are in serious condition in hospital, he added.

But while the government said that it would probably have to raise the epidemic alert to the maximum level of three – potentially leading to travel restrictions and clampdowns on public activities – it has repeatedly ruled out postponing the crunch elections slated for March 15 and 22.

The mayoral vote is especially important to M Macron, who is keen to consolidate his voter base and drum up support ahead of the 2022 presidential election.

Opinion polls expect his ruling La République en Marche (LREM) party to fare poorly in the elections, but the 42-year-old leader remains determined to win the race for the Paris city hall despite a sexting scandal that forced his top candidate to pull out of the race.

Benjamin Griveaux, one of M Macron’s closest allies, was forced to quit the Paris race after sexual images he sent to a woman were published online. He has since been replaced by former health minister Agnés Buzyn.

For M Macron, the episode marks a new low in his efforts to give his fledgeling centrist party a sustainable local base.

LREM has failed to maintain discipline, with several lawmakers deciding to defy M Macron by launching independent mayoral bids against the candidate chosen by the party’s decision-making committee.

• The OpinionWay poll of 1,047 people was conducted online between March 4-5.

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