The two biggest parties have chosen their candidates: Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, of the center-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), and Anne Hidalgo of the Parti Socialiste (PS).
Two other women are also widely expected to fight for the mayor seat against candidates from several smaller parties: Marielle de Sarnez of the centrist MoDem and the Green party leader Cecile Duflot.
The elected candidate will succeed Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, a Socialist re-elected in 2008 to run the capital city of more than 2 million, and could be the first female mayor of the city.
While French politics is still a tough arena for women, Paris is somehow an exception, said Sandrine Leveque, a political scientist based in Paris, in a phone interview. “Paris is a women-friendly city,” she said. “It is not the first time we’ve had a female candidate for mayor of Paris.” In 2008 both Françoise de Panafieu for the UMP and Marielle de Sarnez for the MoDem won their parties’ support to stand as candidates in the race for Parisian mayor.
Despite a 2000 law requiring an equal number of female and male candidates on nearly all election ballots, less than 14 percent of elected mayoral candidates were women after the elections in 2008; in 2001 that figure was less than 11 percent, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE).
French media doesn’t help women’s political prospects, said Leveque:
A macho climate exists in the newsrooms, where the skills of female candidates are often questioned in spite of their qualifications. Such questions are never asked when we have a male candidate . . . Will she be up to the job? Will she fit the job? Will she survive?
Kosciusko-Morizet, 40, one of the 2014 Parisian mayoral candidates (and currently a member of the French Parliament), has no trouble expressing herself. In a recent interview given to NBC News, [she] embraced her reputation as a tough operator:
I am a killer … everybody is a killer in politics. Some know how to shoot, some do not. Some do that [shoot] in your face; most of them do that in your back. I do that in the face.
Widely known by the nickname NKM, the candidate told NBC News that pregnancy had caused her to twice get passed over for ministerial posts:
On both occasions, I had men calling me—the president of the republic [then Jacques Chirac] and the second time the prime minister [then Francois Fillon]—and saying, ‘Well, you won’t be a minister because you are pregnant.’
In the polls, Kosciusko-Morizet is slightly behind her Socialist rival Hidalgo, 54, the current first deputy to the mayor of Paris. After being in charge of gender equality from 2001-2008, she is now in charge of urban planning. Hidalgo agrees that French politics had “for a long time been the sole domain of men, and we women continue to suffer the consequences today,” adding:
Being the first female mayor of Paris will be a big symbol and a very positive sign for women who wanted to go into politics but who didn’t dare go into it in the past. Paris is ready for such a change, and I’m sure that France could one day elect a woman as president.