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France announces new date for second round of elections, delayed due to coronavirus

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France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the second round of elections would take place on June 28.
France's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the second round of elections would take place on June 28.   -   Copyright  BENOIT TESSIER / POOL / AFP
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French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe says the second round of the country's municipal elections will take place on June 28.

The first round was held on March 15th two days before France entered a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

The second round, scheduled for March 22, was postponed.

Around 5,000 cities or towns will need to hold a second round due to an inconclusive first round. That means that 16 million voters in France will head to the polls on June 28.

Philippe said it was necessary to continue democratic processes "with the virus and despite the virus", adding that the law requires that the election occurs in June.

Otherwise, the French government would have to reschedule both the first and second rounds at a later date. Philippe said that there was no way to know if the situation would be better in September.

The scientific body advising the government was not against the decision though not all politicians agreed within the government.

Scientific advisers said that health measures needed to be taken into account, including wearing a mask to vote. They said the government would need to reevaluate in June whether to definitely go ahead with the vote in case there was a second wave of infections.

The French government has been heavily criticised for holding the first round amid a widespread coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Philippe said he took responsibility for the decision to continue holding the elections despite the pandemic.

"This is not a second round like before [and] with the mayors that organise the vote and the candidates and their campaign staff, we have the double responsibility to ensure the security of those who participate in the electoral process and to [ensure] the sincerity of the vote," Philippe said.

French interior minister Christophe Castaner explained that people would need to be cautious during the campaigns, limiting contact between the candidates, staff, and voters.

Candidates will have one month to campaign for the elections instead of five days due to the social distancing measures that restrict large gatherings, for example. Castaner said that the government would also make it easier to secure ballots.

France has been heavily impacted by the pandemic with at least 28,215 COVID-19 deaths. An additional 83 people died in 24 hours, the General Directorate of Health announced on Thursday.

The country has recorded a total of 144,163 cases since the beginning of the epidemic. France began lifting its lockdown measures on May 11 and the government will present a plan to continue phasing out measures next week.