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POLITICS

French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Anne Hidalgo

Currently mayor of Paris where she is best known for her green-travel policies, Anne Hidalgo is also running for the French presidency as the Parti Socialiste candidate.

French elections: 5 things you didn't know about Anne Hidalgo
French Mayor of Paris and Socialist Party (PS) candidate for the April 2022 presidential election Anne Hidalgo (L) reacts as she answers journalists questions next to Lille's mayor Martine Aubry (R) in Lille, on February 6, 2022. (Photo by Thomas LO PRESTI / AFP)

1 Her son is a champion swimmer – Hidalgo, 62, is married with three adult children. Her youngest son, Arthur Germain, has won fame for his endurance swimming exploits.

He’s the youngest Frenchman to have ever swum the Channel and last year he swam the entire length of the river Seine – 780km from its source near Dijon, through Paris and out to Le Havre, completing scientific sampling of water quality along the way. 

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2 She was born in Spain – perhaps obvious from her surname, but her family is Spanish.

Anne was born in San Fernando in Spain, but moved to Lyon with her parents and sister when she was only two. She is now a dual national, having gained French citizenship along with her parents when she was 14. 

Candidates for the French presidency are required to be French citizens, but there is no requirement to have been French from birth and Hidalgo is not the first non French-born candidate to run – in 2012 Norwegian-born Eva Joly ran for the green party.  

3 She’s a dingo – Not really, but her slightly derogatory nickname among Parisians is Annie Dingo.

It’s a rather complicated pun of her name which thanks to the French habit of liaison is pronounced Annie-Dalgo – combined with the French word dingue (crazy) so it roughly translates as Crazy Annie. It’s mostly used by opponents of her green car-free city policies.

4 She’s actually pretty popular with many Parisians – it’s often said that her anti-car policies have made her widely unpopular in the city she governs, but in fact she was reelected in 2021 with a healthy majority. 

She certainly not popular with many car owners, but the majority of people in Paris don’t own a car and many really appreciate the changes she has made – increasing cycle lanes, making popular areas like the banks of the Seine car-free and allowing cafés to expand their outdoor seating areas. 

But her image as ‘too Parisian’ appears to be counting against her during her presidential bid (even though she grew up in Lyon).

5 She’s planning a new style of Olympics – Hidalgo was reportedly initially unconvinced about Paris bidding to host the Olympics. However, she then came on board with the plan and in 2017 Paris was named host city of the 2024 games.

She has put her own stamp on the event, which aims to boost the city’s green credentials while also avoiding big spending on venues and instead choosing to regenerate run-down areas. Inclusivity is a key component of the games with as many events as possible hosted in the city centre. 

The bid was completed during her first term as mayor and she will still be leading the city in time for the games in 2024 – provided she isn’t diverted into the presidential Elysée Palace.  

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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