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A field of females in Paris mayor contest

Date

Henry Samuel

On the move ... former Justice minister Rachida Dati leaves the France's right wing opposition UMP party's headquarters in November last year.

On the move ... former Justice minister Rachida Dati leaves the France's right wing opposition UMP party's headquarters in November last year. Photo: AFP

PARIS: The battle to become mayor of Paris is shaping up as an all-female affair as two former 'Sarkozettes' tussle to lead the centre-Right against the Socialist favourite with a Green party minister a potential fourth runner.

Bertrand Delanoe, the current Socialist mayor, has announced that he will not run next year for another term in a job historically viewed as a springboard to the presidency.

Anne Hidalgo, 53, the deputy mayor and close friend of President Francois Hollande, is the unchallenged Socialist candidate while Rachida Dati, 47, glamorous star of former president Nicolas Sarkozy's "government of openness", was the early front-runner for the Right.

A firm admirer of London's mayor, Boris Johnson, Ms Dati wants to develop a "global vision" for Paris and give it renewed international prestige.

But her chances of success suffered a big setback on Friday when Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, 39, Mr Sarkozy's campaign spokesman and responsible for the environment, transport and housing in his government, declared her candidacy.

The aristocratic MP and mayor of Longjumeau, a town just outside the French capital, is pushing for "open primaries" where large numbers of Parisians can pick a conservative candidate.

NKM, as she is known, is considered palatable to conservative Parisians to the west but also "bobo compatible" - able to sway the capital's growing number of "bourgeois bohemians". Polls suggest that she can command higher scores than Ms Dati.

She is endorsed by Francois Fillon, a former prime minister who appears to have decided not to run and whose venomous relations with Ms Dati are well-documented.

Ms Dati has the backing of Jean-Francois Cope, a sworn enemy of Mr Fillon with whom he was recently locked in a vicious battle to lead the centre-Right UMP party.

The two "Sarkozettes" appeared very close at one stage during the Sarkozy presidency but are barely on speaking terms. Ms Dati suffered a spectacular fall from grace - reportedly because Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the former first lady, saw her as a potential love rival - after she was sacked as justice minister.

Born of North African parents, Ms Dati is now a Euro MP and is the mayor of the chic 7th arrondissement in Paris. She had accused her younger rival of being a parachutee - a non-Parisian airdropped into the capital.

In a reference to ridicule she attracted last year when she failed to correctly guess the price of a metro ticket, NKM retorted that she was a regular on the municipal transport system, saying: "I'm a parachutee with a travel card."

Both Right-wingers have accused the uncharismatic Ms Hidalgo, who is ahead in the polls, of being Mr Delanoe's designated heir who has never held elected office.

Ms Hidalgo hit back at NKM, saying she had betrayed the trust of her constituency and wanted to "use" the mayoral position for a shot at the presidency. She described her as the candidate of the "old barons of the Parisian Right" and criticised her "lack of courage" for not fully backing gay marriage.

Mr Delanoe also joined the attack on NKM, saying: "I don't doubt that she will run a campaign based on image. I think Parisians will realise that she is a conservative who won't own up to it."

A fourth potential candidate is Cecile Duflot, the 37-year old housing minister, who said on Sunday that "nothing is ruled out" about her candidacy.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the Green Euro MP, said the contest promised to be "enthralling".

"Perhaps they will show that one can have different projects, do politics differently between women by being competitors without being adversaries," he said hopefully.

The Daily Telegraph

 

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