This year March (2008) is bound to roar in like a lion, at least on the political front because Paris is up for grabs. Throughout France towns and villages will be electing their mayors, and who would not want to be mayor of Paris – or at least one of its twenty arrondissements?
Bertrand Delanöe is the current mayor of the City of Paris yet each arrondissement has its own arrondissent mayor. In effect, Paris is a congregation of villages. That’s why, when you move to Paris, people want to know where you live, because your neighborhood is often a reflection of your politics. So, picture the situation if Rachida Dati, President Sarkozy’s minister of justice should be elected mayor of the chic Left Bank 7th arrondissement. Would the conservative Dati clash with Paris’s socialist ‘green’ mayor? Undoubtedly, but isn’t that what democracy is all about in its most ideal form?
Chances are Minister Dati won’t win the election against 7th arrondissement incumbent mayor Michel Dumont who was recently described in the IHT’s Jan. 14th story as being “a beloved fixture”. Normally French towns and villages hold keep their mayors for years. People have a closer rapport with their mayors here. For example, in neighboring Issy-les-Moulineaux, Mayor André Santini finds time to perform marriage ceremonies in addition to being a junior minister for President Sarkozy. Perhaps mayors not all mayors would be described by their constituents as ‘beloved fixtures’ but it’s a highly respected position, and it’s a position where continuity makes better sense than revolving mayors.
IHT’s recent article “In France, suddenly, all politics is local” points out that nearly two-thirds of Nicolas Sarkozy’s cabinet will be running for election to become mayors or deputy mayors. If you’ve been reading Parislogue, you’ll know that this is process is hardly ‘sudden’. Already, last summer, defense minister Herve Morin, campaigned in Normandy to retain his seat as delegate representing Haute Normandy in the Senate. If he had not won that election, he would have been obliged to forfeit his post as defense minister. He won the election by a good margin.
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From the viewpoint of ‘checks-and-balances’ this is a pretty good way to touch base with the voice of the people. Although some critics may complain about the ‘parachuting in’ of candidates, those same critics don’t seem to give much credit to the common sense of most French voters. French voters are very tough.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Bertrand Delanöe will continue to be mayor of Paris – no matter how much Parisians complain about fewer and fewer traffic lanes. The city has never looked so good. However, he may have to become acquainted with new mayors in some of Paris’s arrondissements and neighboring towns.
If you’re curious about who might be the president of France in fifteen to twenty years from now, look at Paris mayors. (Jacques Chirac was Paris’s mayor in the 1970. Nicolas Sarkozy was mayor of Neuilly before becoming interior minister, and, finally, president).