Paris gets first female mayor, concierge bites back
By Angus MacKinnon, AFP April 1, 2014, 12:09 am TWN
PARIS--It was a victory to savor.
As she bid to become the first female mayor of Paris, Spanish-born Socialist Anne Hidalgo had to endure taunts from her opponents about her modest origins and lack of Parisian roots.
But in the end, voters in the French capital brushed such snobbery aside and defied the national trend by electing the 54-year-old by a convincing margin.
Hidalgo had been expected to be run extremely close by her center-right rival, glamorous former minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, on a night when the Socialists took a beating from voters across the country because of the unpopularity of French President Francois Hollande's government.
But Hidalgo emerged with nearly 55 percent of second-round votes in the capital, comfortably seeing off Kosciusko-Morizet's challenge.
An old school feminist socialist, Hidalgo has spent the last 13 years as a low-profile deputy to current mayor Bertrand Delanoe.
Her party aparatchik image was seen as an electoral handicap but her serious manner and promises to boost social housing and childcare provision within the city center appear to have struck a cord with the capital's residents in these tough economic times.
"Mine was a victory for authenticity, a victory for a a left loyal to its principles and effective at implementing them," Hidalgo said after securing membership of the exclusive club of women who have taken charge of major cities around the world.
Members currently in office include Ana Botella, the mayor of Madrid, Cape Town's Patricia de Lille and Carolina Toha, who runs Santiago, Chile.
Born near Cadiz in the southwestern corner of Spain in 1959, Hidalgo moved to France as an infant and grew up in a working class suburb of Lyon.
As a child, she spoke Spanish to her parents and French to her sister. She became a French national at the age of 14, dropping her native Christian name Ana in favor of the more traditionally French Anne.
She has been known to approvingly quote the words of writer Sacha Guitry: "Being a Parisian is not about being born in Paris, it is about being reborn there."
After working as a works inspector, Hidalgo became an advisor to former labor minister Martine Aubry, the architect of France's 35-hour working week.
But she was a relatively late entrant to the Socialist Party, only signing up in her mid-30s when the party was under the leadership of Lionel Jospin — a leader who had a similar unflashy style and reputation for integrity.
After Hollande was elected president in 2012, Hidalgo was widely tipped for promotion to ministerial office. She opted instead to remain at City Hall and wait for the opportunity to take over from Delanoe.
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