The Upcoming French Mayoral Elections: A Reader’s Digest Version

Hôtel de Ville, Paris' administrative center. Photo:

Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ administrative center.

Although 2013 is just getting started, Parisian politicians have already begun their preparations for the 2014 Paris municipal elections. Candidates from the two popular political parties, the leftist Parti Socialiste (PS) and the center-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), must first win their individual primary elections in order to continue on to the 2014 municipal election. With 1.25 million registered voters in 2012 and a voter turnout three points higher than the national average, Paris is a local battlefield for national politics and is the best way to showcase new policy.

Implemented in 1982, the capital is also home to a special election law known as PLM, for Paris-Lyon-Marseilles, which states that the Parisian mayor must be indirectly elected by the counselors, or “mayors,” of the 20 arrondissements that comprise the city. These counselors are directly elected by their constituents.

The 2014 election will mark the end of Bertrand Delanoë’s era as the mayor of Paris since 2001. Following next year’s election, the PS member will step down from his position. A week after socialist candidate Jean-Marie Le Guen made his public declaration of his candidacy for mayor of Paris, Delanoë publicly announced his support for another fellow socialist Anne Hidalgo.

In a segment on “Forum” Radio J, the mayor justified his decision, as “Anne Hidalgo and Jean-Marie Le Guen are both highly qualified, but I have been able to experience the qualities of Anne Hidalgo as first-class. She has ideas for the future of Paris, not to say that Jean Marie Le Guen does not. [The ideas] are there and they must be taken into account.”

Towards the right side of the spectrum, mayor of the 7th arrondissement and UMP-backed Rachida Dati has made headlines this week with her official declaration of candidacy for the primary elections. In an interview with Le Figaro, Dati was asked about Hidalgo and harshly noted, “When she has run for elections on her name, she has always been beaten.” She also accused Hidalgo of being “co-responsible” for the constraining and exclusionary politics and policies put in place by Delanoë.

Dati stressed that “Parisians want an alternative that we have had trouble embodying to this day. For six years, the right has been declining electorally due to personal infighting. I hope that we can surpass this. I love Paris, I want to serve the Parisians.” She also ensured that the UMP primaries would be open and transparent, barring all procedures that could taint election results.

She has been asked multiple times about other candidates on the right, such as the rumored candidacy of Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (referred to in France as NKM), retorting only that she needs not “waste her energy on hypotheticals.” Unlike the PS, where Delanoë felt it was his duty and right to show his support, former president Nicolas Sarkozy has told both Dati and NKM that “he would not meddle in the Parisian battle.”

With rumors of the possible rise of radical factions within the parties, there is talk of a change in the wind. Delanoë and the 2008 elections gave the left a majority in Parisian government. By no means will Anne Hidalgo have an easy time taking Bertrand Delanoë’s position. For the first time, a leftist president has won the general elections, meaning the left holds an ultimate majority. A PS mayor would have to deal with perceptions about the impact on the electoral government.

Will Parisians decide to try this new outlook from the “favorite” PS party? Or will Dati’s no-nonsense attitude and emphasis on results over politics cause her to come out on top? Before she can do so, however, she will have to compete with the other center-right candidates who have yet to officially declare their candidacies. Jean-Louis Borloo and NKM are but two politicians allegedly interested in the position.


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