Women-only election brawl brewing in Paris

Update to this post: European MP Rachida Dati has dropped out of the conservative UMP party’s primary planned between May and June 2013. Dati’s pre-battle retreat leaves the field wide open to French MP Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, who recent polls show counts more than 80% support in the race for her party’s nomination.


The year 2012 was a major one for elections. From the USA and Russia, to Egypt and Mexico, people around the world had beaucoup politics to consider, whether they liked it or not. The French were also among those picking a new head of state. Eventually they decided to drop off incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy curbside and give socialist François Hollande a crack at the wheel.

Yes, last year we saw a lot of promise making, name calling, flag waving, hand shaking, baby kissing and, this being France, food throwing. Enough so that everyone was glad for a nice break after Hollande moved into the Elysée palace.


Now political cravings have returned and bellies are grumbling. Presidential elections are still four years away, so it’s the 2014 mayoral elections that are on the menu.


Of the thousands of elections that will take place across France in just over one year, perhaps no other will get more attention than the one in Paris. Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë is stepping down after 12 years and the fisticuff for the French capital is already stealing headlines.

The main event is shaping up to be a women-only royal rumble you won’t want to miss.


The favorite, according to early opinion polls, is Anne Hidalgo. A fellow socialist, she has served as Delanoë’s deputy ever since he took office. Although she has been anointed by the mayor as his chosen successor, city hall sources that asked to remain anonymous wonder if the 53-year-old has the fire or the fight needed to face her formidable challengers.


In the left corner and wearing the jade shorts is Cécile Duflot, the current housing minister and a member of France’s Green party. Duflot, 37, has long hinted at her interest in the mayor’s seat, and in a February 17 interview with the Journal de Dimanche weekly said she has “not excluded” joining the race. As a cabinet minister Duflot has shown resilience in the face criticism, which strangely was often directed at her wardrobe.

But a more high-tension storm is brewing on the political right, where MP Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and European MP Rachida Dati will have to face off in a primary, or risk splitting the already relatively weak conservative electorate in Paris.


Kosciusko-Morizet, 39, often referred to simply as NKM by the French, was an environment minister for former president Nicolas Sarkozy, and his campaign spokesman last year. She has built up a reputation as a smart cookie who doesn’t hesitate to pick a fight with the far-right National Front party.


Dati, another protégé of Sarkozy, is a fiery lawyer who rose from humble origins to become France’s justice minister in 2007. A 47-year-old single mom, Dati is also the local mayor of Paris’ 7th district, a post that gives her measure of legitimacy in the race.


Rounding out the list is Marielle de Sarnez, another European MP from the centrist MoDem party. MoDem chief François Bayrou has said group would rally around 61-year-old Sarnez in the upcoming clash, but given the group’s pitiful score in the last round of elections, that may be more of a liability.


It is still the morning before the battle and there is little sense in predicting the final outcome. But what seems near certain is that when the dust settles next year, Paris will crown its very first woman mayor. A woman has already held the post of France’s prime minister. That would leave just one major political office for French women to conquer.

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It looks like the office of mayor of Paris became much less attractive for men for some reason.

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