Paris Mayor Hidalgo Joins Crowded Race to Replace Macron
(Bloomberg) -- Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris, became the latest politician to announce she intends to challenge Emmanuel Macron in April’s presidential election.
“I have decided to be a candidate for the presidency of the French republic,” she said on Sunday in Rouen, north of Paris. “I am ready.”
Hidalgo, 62, must first win the formal support of her party and some members are divided over her candidacy -- Stephane Le Foll, the influential former agriculture minister and government spokesman, wants to hold a primary instead of naming her outright.
If Hidalgo is endorsed by the Socialists, she still faces an uphill battle to convince voters she can reconcile France after five years under Macron marked by demonstrations and a pandemic.
Relatively unknown outside Paris, Hidalgo will find it hard to appeal to rural communities demanding more of a say in how the country is run. And she can’t count on the Socialists to strengthen her credentials. The party ruled until Macron defeated Francois Hollande in 2017, but has been in tatters ever since with the green and far-left movements vying for what’s left of its electorate.
What’s more, surveys show voters veering to the right, with Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen leading a crowded field of about 30 contenders.
Even so, at this point in the race four years ago, Macron wasn’t polling that strongly and few thought he’d make it to the second round.
Hidalgo’s success rests largely on her ability to convince moderates disappointed by Macron’s tack to the right and overcome deep divisions on the left over immigration, the role of religion in society and what it means to be French.
Her background as the daughter of Spanish immigrants and re-election in June last year as Paris mayor may help her stand out from other left-leaning candidates, such as Arnaud Montebourg, the charismatic former socialist minister and champion of economic sovereignty who’s running as an independent.
On Sunday she highlighted her arrival in France as a toddler, her father working at a port and her mother a seamstress, and her nationalization at the age of 14.
“Nothing pre-destined me to this declaration,” she said. “I want all children in France to have the same opportunities I had.”
During her time running the capital, Hidalgo has built new lanes for bikes and banned cars from certain areas. Critics say the measures led to more congestion in the city and note that she didn’t meet her targets to plant more trees. Still, her focus on environmental issues could help her build an alliance with the ecologist party that would strengthen her hand.
In Rouen, Hidalgo also promised to revive French industry, decentralize and decarbonize the country and push for companies to distribute more profit to employees.
A poll conducted on Sept. 2 and 3 of 925 people selected to be representative of the voting population gave Hidalgo 9% in the first round -- behind the more mainstream green candidate, Yannick Jadot. Macron was hovering around 25% while Le Pen would get between 19% and 23%, depending on who the candidates are.
Among the five main contenders on the right, Xavier Bertrand leads and would garner more votes than Le Pen and Valerie Pecresse, who are nearly neck and neck, according to an Ifop survey of 1,502 people published Sunday by Le Journal du Dimanche. The EU’s former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier trails and far-right pundit Eric Zemmour is last.
Speaking in the southern city of Frejus on Sunday, Le Pen criticized vaccine passports and mandatory Covid-19 jabs for health-care workers, which have sparked weekly demonstrations across the country.
“We aren’t against vaccination, but for the liberty to choose,” she said, adding that the digital passes are a “disproportionate attack on freedoms.”
In a wide-ranging campaign speech, she touched on her favorite themes of immigration, crime, French identity and religion.
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