France's Macron faces punishing local elections

Emmanuel Macron seemed cheery after voting in the delayed second round of France's municipal elections on Sunday (June 28) but behind the smile the harsh reality has likely dawned.

The French president, who last year hoped local elections would anchor his young party in urban centers across the country, could fail to win a single big city.

Macron's popularity had dipped over 2019 amid a series of protests but party insiders say he also made a series of political miscalculations such as picking Benjamin Grieveaux to stand for the election's biggest prize - Paris.

He quit over a sex tape scandal, leaving the president's former health minister Agnes Buzyn to jump in a month before the first round.

Before the scandal, the capital had seemed there for the taking - with one in three Parisians voting for Macron's LaRem in last year's European election.

Instead, incumbent Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo is on track for a comfortable win.

And Paris is unlikely to be Macron's only disappointment.

The Greens could to do well in cities such as Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux and in Perpignan, Marine Le Pen's far-right party may take control of its first city with a population of more than 100,000.

The first round of municipal elections took place in mid-March, less than 48 hours before Macron imposed one of Europe's strictest lockdowns and turnout for the second round appears low.

France's 35,000 mayors set policy on issues from urban planning to education but the vote is also an opportunity for the electorate to support or punish a president mid-mandate.

Macron has said he will "reinvent" his presidency ahead of an anticipated 2022 re-election bid.

He says he will present a detailed plan next month for the final two years of his term, and a government reshuffle is widely expected.