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Thursday, 18 April 2013

It's most definitely not "a man's world" in the race to be mayor of Paris

The French will go to the polls again next year.

No, it won't be a snap parliamentary election called by the president, François Hollande, although the governing Socialist party will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on the results.

Rather, up and down the country, folk will be choosing mayors and local councillors in the municipal elections.

Oh yes, and if everyone isn't suffering from complete voting fatigue, they'll be able to do it all over again in the European parliamentary elections a couple of months later.

(This might be a good point at which to remind everyone to register and all EU citizens resident here can vote in both).

Anyway, there'll be a great deal of media attention focussed on what happens in Paris next March.

It's not just because the position of mayor of the capital is for some reason "apparently" perceived as a springboard to presidency of the country ("apparently" because in reality only one person in recent history who held the post, later went on to become president - Jacques Chirac).

But also because it's undeniably high profile and prestigious.

The current mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, has been in the job since 2001, but he has ruled out running for a third term, perhaps with more than one eye on entering the national government...should the call come.

So the race is open as to who might succeed him.

His Socialist party has already nominated its official candidate, Delanoë's number two at the moment, Anne Hidalgo.

Anne Hidalgo (screenshot Canal + "La Matinale")


The centre-right opposition Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP) is set to hold a primary to choose its candidate, and the choice looks to be a straight one between Rachida Dati and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM).

For Jean-Louis Borloo's centrist/centre-right (how confusing) Union des démocrates et indépendants, (Union of Democrats and Independents, UDI), Rama Yade, the former junior minister for human rights under Nicolas Sarkozy, is the person thought most likely to stand.

The current housing minister, Cécile Duflot, is contemplating standing for Europe Écologie – Les Verts (Europe Ecology – The Greens) as is Marielle de Sarnez for the centrist party Mouvement démocrate (Democratic Movement, MoDem).

Yes, in all likelihood the next mayor of Paris - in case you hadn't already noticed - will be a woman.

But which one?

And will the battle for office be any...er...different to those that have gone before?

"Softer or gentler" just because it'll be between women?

That would be forgetting that the race is, above all else, a political one.

In all probability (not too much neck being stuck out here) the second-round run-off will be between Hidalgo (currently leading in the polls) and NKM.

But that's certainly not how Dati wants things to pan out.

And she might have an unusual political "ally".

Hidalgo.

Remember the UMP still has to choose its candidate in a primary. And Dati isn't going to give up without a fight.

Dati, a former justice minister and currently a member of the European parliament likes to emphasise her "base" in Paris.

She's mayor of the seventh arrondissement, a safe UMP seat she contested (and unsurprisingly won) in 2008. So that choice bit of party parachuting presumably makes her "Parisian" - in touch with the needs and aspirations of those living there.

Well more so than her opponent in the UMP primary NKM, who has only been an elected representative for a constituency in (horror upon horrors) the outer suburbs of Paris (Essonne, to be exact) since 2002 and mayor of Longjumeau (also in the 'burbs") since 2008.

Now this is where Hidalgo steps in.

Reading between the lines it could be said that Hidalgo would rather have Dati as the UMP's candidate than NKM because, according to opinion polls, beating her would simply be easier.

Why else would she invite Dati and not NKM to join her in the first official debate (on Wednesday)?

"I like debating and it just so happens that we both hold elected positions in Paris (no dig at NKM of course) and are two women with strong convictions able to give their "visions" for the city's future," she told Canal +.

"We've had many discussions in the past and of course don't agree," continued Hidalgo, denying that she was somehow favouring Dati's candidacy over NKM's.


Jean-Marc Germain (screenshot Canal + "La Matinale")

But wait. What was it that a certain member of parliament said on camera just a day ago when asked for his opinion on who would make the better UMP candidate?

"It's not really my place to give advice to the opposition, but if I were, it would be to choose a candidate who's already involved in local politics here in Paris," Jean-Marc Germain said.

"Rachida Dati is someone who has fought to get where she is, and nothing has been handed to her on a plate. It think that's an admirable quality," he continued.

And when asked which UMP candidate he and his wife preferred, Germain answered, "We prefer her (Dati) because she's more involved in local politics in Paris."

Oh yes.

Germain's wife?

Anne Hidalgo.

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