Two politicians seek to become the first woman to rule France

Two French politicians kicked off their presidential campaigns on Sunday, seeking to become the first woman to rule France in next year’s elections.

The nominations of the far-right Marine Le Pen and the socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, were widely expected, and they add to a growing list of rivals of the centrist president Emmanuel Macron. This includes battles between multiple potential candidates on the right – including another politician: Valerie Pecresse – and between the Greens.

Hidalgo, 62, the mayor of the French capital since 2014, is the favorite to win the Socialist Party nomination. He launched his candidacy in the northwestern city of Rouen.

“I want all the children of France to have the same opportunities that I had,” he said, invoking his roots. Hidalgo is the daughter of Spanish immigrants who fled their country in search of freedom during the regime of dictator Francisco Franco.

Le Pen, 53, leader of the National Grouping party, began his campaign in the southern city of Fréjus promising to defend French “freedom.” Reiterating a message from the far right that critics say has vilified Muslim communities, Le Pen vowed to be tough on “the parts of France that have been Talibanized.” Although he had already announced his candidacy, on Sunday he appointed 26-year-old Jordan Bardella as acting head of the party to allow his campaign to advance into full swing.

Le Pen is also remaking her image for these elections. She has left behind the dark blue wardrobe that characterized her. Now he will wear light blue for the campaign, “to show our vision, less partisan, (reaching) higher,” said Le Pen’s special adviser Philippe Olivier, as quoted by the conservative daily Le Figaro.

The 43-year-old Macron has yet to announce his bid for re-election, but he is presumed to do so. Launching a candidacy in France is a necessary formality for every presidential election.

The vote is expected to come down to a duel between Le Pen and Macron, as happened in the last French presidential elections in 2017.

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