French race for mayor of all mayors will have ramifications for President Macron

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The more than 34,000 members of the influential Association of French Mayors will designate their new president this Wednesday, between two candidates who have differing approaches on how to engage with President Emmanuel Macron.

The vote, which began online shortly after the opening of the mayors' congress on Tuesday, ends this Wednesday afternoon with results to be announced shortly afterwards.

The election presents more uncertainties than in the past, as mayors can cast their ballots remotely, unlike in previous elections.

François Baroin, the outgoing president and Les Républicains mayor of Troyes, announced at the end of August that he would not seek a third term at the head of the AMF.

He has endorsed the centre-right mayor of Cannes, AMF vice-president David Lisnard for the top position.

His endorsement has irked AMF secretary general, Philippe Laurent, the liberal mayor of the Parisian suburb of Sceaux, who also entered the race.

Beyond the personalities of the two candidates, there are conflicting ways of approaching relations with Emmanuel Macron - Lisnard, well anchored on the right, wants to guarantee the "independent DNA" of the AMF, as characterised the seven years of Mr Baroin's mandate.

UDI liberal Laurent is more willing to open dialogue with the French president.

A five-year period of tension

Laurent's alleged proximity to the Elysée Palace is the main angle of attack for the mayor of Cannes.

He has received the support of far-right polemicist Eric Zemmour, who believes that a victory for Philippe Laurent would turn the AMF into a "branch of the Elysée".

The mayor of Sceaux has defended his integrity, with a governement source underlining that : "We have nothing to do with the decision and the triggering of Mr Laurent's candidacy."

However, if Les Républicains candidate Linsard wins, the centre-right will try to present the victory as a defeat for Emmanuel Macron.

The polls come at the end of a tempestuous five-year period marked by tensions between the presidenct and regional mayors.

Upon his arrival at the Elysée Palace, Emmanuel Macron was hissed at during his first speech at the AMF congress, when he announced the abolition of thetaxe d'habitation housing tax.

The "get rid of your mayor" hashtag #balancetonmaire was on social networks a year later to denounce elected officials who had increased the housing tax, also irritated many elected officials.

Yet after results of the election, President Macron will receive more than a thousand mayors at the Elysée Palace for an "informal reception" without speeches.

The head of state will then address the AMF on Thursday afternoon at the close of the congress to "thank the mayors for their action during the pandemic" and underline "the support given to local authorities since the beginning of [Macron's] five-year term".

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