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France

Socialist Anne Hidalgo elected first female mayor of Paris

media Anne Hidalgo elected to be first female mayor of Paris REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Anne Hidalgo, the leftist deputy of the outgoing mayor Betrand Delanoe, has been elected as Paris’ first female mayor in Sunday’s run-off vote, according to exit polls. The left's grip on Paris was an exception in a night otherwise dominated so far by a series of setbacks in other regions.

"Make Paris an exemplary city where creativity and innovation will serve to live better together," Hidalgo said after being declared the next mayor of the capital. "Make Paris an ecological city, make renewable energy a reality, let's remodel the city's open spaces, push the parametres. Let's give the world the face of desire, beauty and serenity."

With a paltry number of women governing cities worldwide, Hidalgo joins the likes of Madrid mayor Ana Botella, Cape Town's Patricia de Lille and Santiago's Carolina Toha.

The socialist candidate beat her conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) rival Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a former ecology minister and a protégé of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, with more than 54 per cent of the vote, exit polls indicated.

For much of the campaign season, polls had shown Hidalgo, 54, a clear frontrunner in a pool of varied candidates.

However, in the first round of votes last weekend, Kosciusko-Morizet – of referred to by just her initials NKM –unexpectedly came out with 35.64 percent of the vote compared to Hidalgo’s 34.4 percent.

But with neither candidate garnering more than 50 percent of the vote, today’s historic vote pitted the two women against each other once more.

After 13 years as Delanoe’s deputy, Hidalgo will now sit at the helm of the city’s political scene, often said to be a stepping stone to the French presidency.

Hidalgo will govern more than 2 million residents and manage a budget of some 8 billion euros.

As the daughter of Spanish immigrants, Hidalgo moved to the French city of Lyon at the age of two in 1961 and became a naturalised French citizen at the age of 14.

While her family first settled in public housing, Hidalgo climbed the rungs to become somewhat of a rarity on the French political scene.

In France, only 27 percent of MPs in the National Assembly are women and 22 percent of the representatives in the upper house are female, setting the 2014 elections up to be anomaly with two female top contenders.

The two leading parties – the Socialists and the UMP – have paid fines rather than introduce gender quotas or balance the gender ratio among candidates.

Running on a campaign slogan ‘A Paris, that dares,’ Hidalgo has tabled an array of solutions to fight common urban ills such as socioeconomic disparities, unemployment and rising housing prices.

Hidalgo said she plans to building 10,000 new homes a year, create more green spaces and add 5,000 more day-care spaces to help the thousands of families grappling to find affordable childcare.

She’d also like to improve public transportation options while phasing out diesel vehicles in Paris by 2020 and create a sharing moped scheme to add onto Paris popular bicycle and car sharing programmes.

Paris has had a socialist mayor since Delanoe was first elected in 2001, breaking a two-decade streak of right wing mayors including former president Jacques Chirac.

Despite Hidalgo's win, more than 40 per cent of Parisians chose not to vote, and the left lost at least ten seats in the city council.

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