The five possible new faces of Paris - from urban forests to robot street cleaners

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Ingri Bergo - [email protected]
The five possible new faces of Paris - from urban forests to robot street cleaners
What will Paris look like by 2026? Photo: AFP

From urban forests and bicycles to armed police and robot street cleaners - here is what the main political candidates plan for the capital if they get the keys to the Mayor's office in March.


Municipal elections will be held across France in March to decide on who will be among the crop of public officials to look over the country's cities, towns and villages for the next six years.

The elections will be held in two rounds, on March 15th and 22nd. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about France's (very complicated) municipal elections

The race to the high-profile job of the Paris Mayor' has so far been dominated by a sex-scandal involving Benjamin Griveaux, the candidate from French President Emmanuel Macron's ruling party and one of current mayor Anne Hidalgo's main contenders.

Since Griveaux withdrew from the race he has been replaced as LREM candidate by former health minister Agnès Buzyn.

So here's what the five (current) main candidates are promising for the city:

Anne Hidalgo refurbished the capital's public bicycle system during her first term. Photo: AFP

Anne Hidalgo, Parti Socialiste

Elected in 2014, the current Mayor has upped her green game for this election, vowing that “environment is the pedestal of my project.”

It seems to be paying off so far, with pollsters putting her as the leading candidate with just under a month to go, collecting about a quarter of the votes in the latest polls.

During her first term, Hidalgo put a lot of effort into her long-term plan to transform Paris into a capital of cyclists. If she wins in March, she has promised to make Paris “100 percent cyclable” by adapting every single street in the city to bicycles by 2024 (in time for the Paris Olympics) That means more bicycle lanes and further restrictions on cars.

READ ALSO: Why cyclists in Paris are more numerous than ever 

Hidalgo has also promised to plant 170,000 trees and five urban forests in six years, do away with 60,000 parking spots, and create an agricultural co-op that would make it easier to get short-traveled, organic food inside the capital.

And, of course, there’s the notorious promise to render the Seine and the Canal Saint-Martin fit for swimming by 2024.

After Buzyn stepped into the race, both of Hidalgo's main challengers are women.

Slogan: Paris en commun (Paris in common)

Rachida Dati kept away from the public spotlight in the months before the elections. Photo: AFP

Rachida Dati, Les Républicains

The right-wing candidate, a former star of the Sarkozy era, has been thriving on the internal split in Macron's governing party La République en marche (LREM) between the original two candidates (now reduced to one, more on that below). The latest polls have had her in second place.

For a long time Dati was quiet compared to the other candidates, speaking less to French press and being rather vague about her plans for the city, even after the other candidates had released their programmes. She revealed her plans on Monday February 24th - less than a month before the elections.

So what would Paris under Dati’s rule look like?

Key words for Datis' vision for Paris are sécurité, proprété and famille (security, cleanliness and family).

She has earlier told French press that she wants to establish an armed municipal police, increasing the current number of local police officers from 2,900 to 3,400.

She also wants to increase surveillance of public buildings by installing as many as 4,000 surveillance cameras all over the capital before the end of her mandate (currently there are 1,360).

To clean up the city, Dati has said that she intends to give more responsibility to the mayors of the respective arrondissements.

Dati also has added a sliver of green into her policies, promising to "fight diesel (but not cars)" and clean up the capital's two big forests Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Bologne.

However she has opened for the possibility of potentially letting Parisians review the "mobility scheme," referring here to the Seine river banks that have been pedestrianised by Hidalgo.

Slogan: Dati pour Paris (Dati for Paris)

The former health minister has been criticised for swapping coronavirus management for the race to the Mayor's chair. Photo: AFP

Agnès Buzyn, La République en Marche

The opposition lashed out at Buzyn for leaving her post as a health minister for the Paris Mayor’s race, saying it proved that the LREM Party didn’t take Parisian voters seriously.

But Buzyn justified her parachuting into the race she was born in and raised in Paris and, anyway, “nothing scares me in life.”

Her political programme resembles that of former candidate Griveaux, bar a couple of significant differences. 

Buzyn has scrapped two of Griveaux’ flagship policies: to turn the train station Gare de l’Est into a “Parisian Central Park” and to provide up to €100,000 in financial aid to middle class Parisians who wish to buy an apartment in the capital.

Instead, Buzyn told the Journal du Dimanche that she wishes to focus on “security, cleanliness and the environment.” Like Griveaux, she plans to create a local, armed police unit. She has also maintained her predecessor’s plan to clean up the city by“employing “street managers” all over the city.

Buzyn plans to privatise the capital’s waste system and “double the amount of recyclable waste” (currently at 20 percent).

She has vowed not to raise taxes.

Slogan: Ensemble pour Paris (Together for Paris)

David Belliard wants to "free Paris" of its cars. Photo: AFP

David Belliard, Europe Ecologie les Verts (EELV)

As the official Green party candidate for an election where everyone is trying to be green, how far has Belliard gone?

If Belliard is elected, he will pedestrianise and green up the 300 most polluted schools in the city; do a Berlin-inspired halt on rental prices; introduce a moratorium on big industrial development works in the city (such as the ones in Bery, Ordener-Poissonniers and Ménilmontant); plant 100,000 trees (in addition to parks and gardens); create a tramway line that would run from the stations Montparnasse, through Austerlitz and Gare de Lyon and ending up at Gare de l’Est.

He has also said that he plans to "liberate"  Paris of cars and transform it into a vélopole (city of bicycles) - including the péripherique highway encircling the capital.

There are some who argue that the greens have already won this election, since all the candidates are stressing their green credentials, but no doubt Belliard would like to win the seat too.

Slogan: L’écologie pour Paris (Environment for Paris)

Cédric Villani launched himself as an independent candidate after he was kicked out of Macron's party. Photo: AFP

Cédric Villani, independent

Villani has been a controversial candidate since he launched his campaign. A member of Macron’s party LREM, he first shared the spotlight with the other and preferred candidate, Benjamin Griveaux. After declining the request from the political higher-uppers to kindly back off, he was excluded from the party and is now running as an independent candidate.

This did not stop Villani in his quest to become what he has said would be “the first green mayor” of Paris, something he intends to do through a €5 billion investment plan.

His programme includes the use artificial intelligence to clean the streets of Paris and creating an urban promenade from the banks of the Seine and all the way out in the northern banlieue and the Stade de France.

Villani also intends to install cameras all over the city that would "render circulation more fluid" by anticipating traffic corks and coordinating lights.

Like Dati and Buzyn, he also wants to create a municipal police (he has set the number of officers at 4,500)

As one might expect from a mathematician-turned-politician, Villani has also promised to fight social inequalities through an education boost, by allowing children from some areas to enter maternelle (nursery) at the age of two.

Slogan: Le nouveau Paris (The new Paris)



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