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French Local Elections

The three women vying to be Mayor of Paris

Three female candidates for Mayor of Paris, 2020: ( l to r) Agnès Buzyn, Rachida Dati, Anne Hidalgo
Three female candidates for Mayor of Paris, 2020: ( l to r) Agnès Buzyn, Rachida Dati, Anne Hidalgo AFP
6 min

In a week’s time France is to hold the second round of municipal elections that were called off in March due to the coronavirus epidemic. Voters in close to 5,000 cities and towns are set to vote, including Paris where three, very different, women are competing for the post.


The first round of voting, on Sunday, 15 March, produced an outright winner in many of France’s smaller towns and villages..

But in 4,827 places – mostly the larger towns and cities – there was to be a run-off on 22 March.

That was scrapped when France went into lockdown on 17 March and the second round takes place next Sunday 28 June.

Roughly 16 million people in France are being called on to vote, including residents of Paris, Lyon and other large cities.

In Paris the incumbent Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo is attempting to hold on to her seat. But she’s challenged by conservative Rachida Dati, who served as former president Nicolas Sarkozy's justice minister and Agnès Buzyn, President Emmanuel Macron's former health minister.

Hidalgo topped the voting in the first round and remains the favourite. But Dati and Buzyn each have their own strong support bases.

All three candidates need a good turnout next Sunday but a recent survey by the Ifop polling firm showed only 38 percent were planning to vote, with more than a quarter of abstainers linking their decision "solely to the risk of being affected by coronavirus".

Hidalgo, Dati and Buzyn are running on very different platforms. They each presented their campaigns during a televised debate on Wednesday.

Anne Hidalgo, putting environment first

Mayor Hidalgo scored a comfortable 29.33 percent in the first round and she's now cemented that lead with an alliance with Greens leader David Belliard, the Europe Écologie-Les Verts candidate.

Their joint platform is based on the renovation of social housing, introducing the "first bioclimatic local urban masterplan in France" and the creation of a municipal energy authority.

Hidalgo has also made a pledge to make Paris a “100 percent bike” city with a network of cycle highways for biking across the greater Paris area; to end diesel vehicles inside Paris by 2024 and cap speed limits to 30km/h within the city.

She plans to increase pedestrian areas around schools and transform the Paris ring road with carpool/bus/taxi lanes and, in time, a bike path.

Her economic policy involves "accompanying" the post-lockdown relaunch by injecting €60 million. That would include €5 million to support "positive-impact tourism", €15 million for arts and culture, €6 million for start-ups, shops and business and €4 million for the solidarity economy.

Rachida Dati, energetic conservative

Rachida Dati, from the conservative Republicans party, has energy to burn and is focusing on issues favoured by the right and far-right such as crime and keeping the streets clean through 24/7 cleaning brigades.

The second of 11 children born to north African immigrants, Dati has made a career in law and business. She presents herself as a self-made woman who can appeal to working-class Parisians.

Currently mayor of the affluent 7th arrondissement, she can also connect to conservative middle class voters.

She has called for municipal police to be armed, and advocates family-orientated policies such as scrapping the highest means-based school lunch fees and relaunching a plan “for businesses at risk of closure” following the coronavirus pandemic.

She has repeatedly called her own bid "the only one capable of bringing change to Paris" and slammed Hidalgo for her record on security and cleanliness.

Dati will need to attract some of Buzyn's more centrist voters if she is to win the race for Paris City Hall.

She aims to encourage turnout with a website aimed at facilitating voting by proxy.

Agnès Buzyn, the government’s candidate

Buzyn stepped down as health minister in February, in the middle of the global coronavirus crisis, to replace Benjamin Griveaux as the party's candidate for Paris City Hall.

She won just 17.26 percent of the vote in the first round, putting her in third place.

LREM minister Marlène Schiappa has reportedly told party faithful Buzyn had no chance of becoming mayor. But the centrist candidate says she's in the race "to win".

To come out on top, Buzyn is relying on Parisians' support of the government although that has been weakened due to its perceived mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis.

She has highlighted her managerial competence and gone on the offensive against Hidalgo, attacking her for overseeing a 50 percent rise in the city’s debt to €6 billion during her six-year term.

Buzyn’s own €400 million economic plan for the French capital would include €170 million towards a solidarity fund entrusted to the mayors of the 20 arrondissements.

"It's about helping shopkeepers, artisans and restaurant owners to survive, notably through an exoneration of all taxes the first year, and even next year if the crisis continues," she promised in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Buzyn also wants to test extending business hours in Paris to evenings and weekends, so as to spread out busy shopping times and rush hours.


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