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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

Macron rules out ‘national unity government’ for France

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised a new style of government based on 'listening and respect' - but did not announce an alliance with any other parties that would give him a majority in parliament.

Macron rules out 'national unity government' for France

Macron has been holding meetings with all other party leaders in an attempt to break the deadlock in parliament after his group lost its majority in Sunday’s elections, but in a live TV address to the nation he did not announce an alliance.

Instead he said that a new style of government was called for, saying: “The responsibility of the presidential majority is therefore to expand, either by building a coalition contract or by building majorities text by text.”

He rejected the idea of forming a “government of national unity” with all parties, saying that the present situation does not justify it.

READ ALSO Can Macron dissolve the French parliament?

But he said that opposition groups have signalled that: “They are available to advance on major topics” such as the cost of living, jobs, energy, climate and health.”

He said: “We must learn how to govern differently, by dialogue, respect, and listening

“This must mean making agreements, through dialogue, respect, and hard work. The country has made its desire for change clear.”  

Speaking for just eight minutes in the gardens of the Elysée, Macron added: “I cannot ignore the fractures and strong divisions that traverse our country.”   

He said urgent draft laws, especially to alleviate the impact of inflation and rising energy prices, would be submitted to parliament over the summer.

Macron called on the opposition parties to “clarify in all transparency, in the coming days, how far they are willing to go” in their support of such measures, which he said would not be financed by higher taxes.

He added that he himself had been re-elected in April on a platform of “ambitious reform” which he expected to carry out.

The parliamentary impasse should not lead to “stagnation”, Macron said, but to “dialogue and the willingness to listen to each other”.

Macron’s centrist group Ensemble (Together) ended Sunday’s elections as the largest group in parliament – but with 245 seats they are 44 short of an absolute majority.

The leftist coalition Nupes – an electoral alliance of the hard-left La France Insoumise, the centre-left Parti Socialiste, the Greens and the Communists – got a total of 131.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National got 89 seats and the centre-right Les Républicains got 61 seats. 

With deadlock in parliament, Macron has been holding meetings over the last two days with the party leaders in the attempt to create an alliance that will allow him to pass legislation over the next five years.

Reacting to Macron’s speech, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the leftist alliance which is the second largest group in parliament, said: “He was elected because most French people did not want the extreme right – the French people have rejected the president’s proposals.

“Nothing can change the choice of the French people.”

Macron’s position as president is not directly threatened by the lack of a majority, but it will mean that passing any legislation – which must be agreed by parliament – will be very difficult.

While negotiations between all parties will continue, Macron himself heads to Brussels on Thursday for an EU summit.

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