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Monday, 3 March 2014

Local elections in France - Ungersheim, a family affair, but maybe not what you think

It's no great secret that in many villages and towns across France, when a mayor retires someone from the family or a serving member of the council (or perhaps both) is likely to stand in his or her place.

Yep, handing down the sash from one generation to the next, especially in small communities, is not unheard of.

And in the village of Ungersheim (population around 2,000) in the Haut-Rhin département of the Alsace region, something along those lines is happening...but with a difference.

You see, in the upcoming local elections the current mayor, Jean-Claude Mensch, who has only been in the job for the past 25 years, has no intention of retiring and is, obviously, seeking another term in office.

But going up against the 67-year-old is none other than his estranged daughter, Catherine Muller.

Catherine Muller (screenshot from Alsace 20 TV report on "Ungersheim demain" list Facebook page)

The two apparently haven't spoken for the best part of 15 years but, insists Muller, that hasn't influenced her decision to stand and there's nothing of a family grudge match about the battle to become mayor.

"I've managed to ignore the fact that the current mayor is my father (right, we believe you)," says Muller who agreed to head the opposition list, which is not affiliated to any political party, when the former candidate died in an accident a couple of months ago.

"My father and I haven't been in touch for 15 years so it's no longer a question of being 'in conflict' with him (???)," she added.

"At some point you just have to (don't groan) 'turn the page' (so very French) and there's no reason why family ties should prevent me from becoming a candidate."

That sort of explanation is as lucid as those the 45-year-old gives about why she wants to stand and what she represents.

"I do not want to criticise him - the current mayor - (oh really? what sort of campaign are you going to lead then?) as he has done some very good things," she admits.

"But we want to inject a dynamic that isn't there. Some things must change."

Jean-Claude Mensch (screenshot BFM TV)

Mensch has remained "stumm" about his feelings towards his daughter's decision to stand.

But what of his record - and yes he has been a long time in office - with it's apparent "lack of dynamic"?

Well, Mensch isn't affiliated to any particular political party either, but he has followed a very Green policy over the years - so much so that Ungersheim regularly makes the news for projects that illustrate how the world could be "post-petrol".

Those schemes include the installation of wood burners, solar panels, a "100% organic" canteen and the creation of green spaces without using pesticides.

Very "old hat" and totally out of touch with the modern world, don't you think?

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