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POLITICS

Paris set for historic all-female mayoral battle

The fight to become the next mayor of Paris is gearing up to be a historic one with an all-female cast lined up ready to do battle.

Paris set for historic all-female mayoral battle
Housing Minister Cécile Duflot who could be a surprise candidate in an all female line up to become the next mayor of Paris. Photo: The Local

The current mayor Bertrand Delanoë will step down at the end of his second term in office next year and so far all the big names lined up to replace him are women.

It looks almost certain therefore that in 2014 Paris Town Hall will get its first ever female mayor.

The front runner is Delanoë’s current deputy Anne Hidalgo, 53, who looks set to be the official Socialist Party candidate. Delanoë himself has given Hidalgo his backing.

But behind her is Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, 39, better known in France as simply NKM. The former spokeswoman for Nicolas Sarkozy during last year’s failed presidential election campaign bid officially announced her candidature last week.

But NKM is not yet guaranteed the position as chosen candidate of the French right. She may be forced to fight it out for the chance to run against Hidalgo in a primary election against Rachida Dati, the mayor of Paris’s VII arrondissement.

Dati was once justice minister under Sarkozy before being unceremoniously dropped. She has been ever present in the headlines thanks in part to her much publicized paternity law suit to prove that Dominique Desseigne, a wealthy hotel group chief, is the father of her child.

And then there is the Greens’ Cécile Duflot, 37, the current housing minister, who has hinted she too may run for mayor in 2014. “I'm not ruling anything out,” she told French newspaper the Journal du Dimanche on Sunday on the question of whether she will run for mayor.

Marielle de Sarnez, vice-president of the centrist MoDem party could complete an all-female line up although there is still time for male candidates to throw their hats into the ring.

Next up, a female president?

Whoever comes out on top, having a female occupy one of the most prestigious posts in French politics, will give a significant boost to women in politics.

“The mayor of Paris has a lot of political clout, much more than London, so having a woman in that position will certainly help boost the presence of females in French politics,” Philippe Marlière, a professor in French politics at UCL London, told The Local on Monday.

“You can introduce all kinds of laws on equality but this kind of scenario will help much more.”

Marlière believes Delanoë’s choice to anoint Hidalgo as his would be successor made it impossible for the other parties to put up their “traditional male” candidates to oppose her.

If Paris elects its first female mayor it could also give a boost to the chances of a woman becoming president of the Republic for the first time.

Could Hidalgo or NKM follow in the footsteps of former mayor and president Jacques Chirac from the Paris Town Hall to the Elysée Palace.

“I think it’s definitely in the pipeline,” Marlière said. “I don’t think the French are ready to elect a president from an ethnic minority like an Obama figure but they’re much closer to having a female president.”

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POLITICS

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

Foreigners living in France could get the right to vote in certain elections if a newly-created bill passes through parliament.

Voting rights for foreigners in France back on political agenda

The newly elected president of the National Assembly’s law commission calmly lobbed a 40-year-old electoral hand-grenade into the political discourse of the summer – and then went on holiday.

Sacha Houlié, MP for the Vienne and a member of Macron’s LREM party, filed a bill on Monday that would, if passed, allow non-EU citizens living in France to vote and stand for office in local elections. 

Under current electoral legislation, only French citizens can vote in presidential and parliamentary elections; EU citizens in France can vote in local and European elections; and non-EU citizens have no voting rights in France whatsoever. 

EU citizens can also stand for office in local elections, but are barred from becoming mayor or running for a seat in the Assembly.

Since Brexit, Britons in France have not been allowed to vote in local or  local office, any many Brits who were on their local councils had to resign because they were no longer EU citizens.

Many countries limit voting for their citizens who are out of the country, so non-EU citizens living in France often do not have the right to vote in any country.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and the far-right Rassemblement National wasted little time criticising Houlié’s bill.

Darminin’s entourage said that the minister was “firmly opposed” to the idea.

The far-right party went further. “We have crossed the limits of indecency and incomprehension of what the French are asking for,” Rassemblement national spokesperson Laurent Jacobelli told Franceinfo, echoing the sentiment of the party’s interim president Jordan Bardella, who insisted the passing of the bill would mark the, “final dispossession of the French from their country”.

Houlié said: “The right to vote for European Union nationals in local elections already exists in France. No one is surprised that a Spaniard or a Bulgarian can vote in municipal elections. But it has surprised many people that the British can no longer do it since Brexit.”

Given the current shape of the Parliament in France, it seems unlikely that the latest bill will pass. But it is far from the first time it has been on the table.

François Mitterrand had pledged during his presidential campaign in 1981 to ensure “the right to vote in municipal elections after five years of presence on French territory.”

But, in the face of opposition from the right, he backed down from this particular promise. 

In October 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, tried to move forward with an electoral plan that would have allowed non-EU citizens certain voting rights – but was blocked by his own UMP party.

François Hollande re-launched the proposal during his 2012 campaign, before quietly letting it go in the face of opposition from both sides of the political spectrum.

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