Modest outsider Anne Hidalgo Paris’ first female mayor

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 10:26pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 10:26pm


It was a victory to savour.

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 Hidalgo, 54, by a convincing margin.

She had been expected to lose to her centre-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 President Francois Hollande's government.

But Hidalgo emerged with nearly 55 per cent of second-round votes in the capital, comfortably seeing off Kosciusko-Morizet's challenge.

An old school feminist socialist, Hidalgo has spent 13 years as a low-profile deputy to mayor Bertrand Delanoe.

Her party apparatchik image was seen as an electoral handicap but her serious manner and promises to boost social housing and child care appear to have struck a chord with the capital's residents in tough economic times.

"Mine was a victory for authenticity, a victory for a left loyal to its principles and effective at implementing them," Hidalgo said.

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 favour 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."

Kosciusko-Morizet did herself no favours by characterising their battle as one between "the star and the caretaker" - a remark seen as a catty reference to Hidalgo's Iberian heritage, the concierges of Paris apartment buildings having, until recently, often been immigrants from Spain and Portugal.