One thing is certain in the race to lead France’s cultural and political center: A woman will be mayor of Paris for the first time in the city’s 2,000-year history. The outcome of the conservative primary that begins May 31 is all but decided — Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, or NKM as she is often known, is widely considered the only candidate with a realistic chance. Her Socialist opponent in the March 2014 election will be Anne Hidalgo, the current mayor’s designated heir. The two have already begun to spar indirectly, notably over security and tourism in Paris, where ugly riots erupted earlier this month during a celebration to honor the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain. But they have distinctly different visions of how Paris should serve its 2.3 million residents and the 29 million people who visit each year. The race also includes other female candidates from smaller parties who are considered unlikely to win.
Kosciusko-Morizet has called for stores in the city’s main tourist districts to open on Sundays, saying that Paris is losing tour groups to London on the weekends because of requirements that shops close for a day. She also wants to crack down on the pickpockets who swarm the subways and major attractions such as the Louvre and Eiffel Tower.
“We have something to learn about hospitality,” she said.
Hidalgo counters that the French system works for its residents, saying that she doesn’t want Paris — which virtually shuts down on Sundays and in the evenings — to “look like Anglo-Saxon cities working 24 hours a day.”
Kosciusko-Morizet, 40, is an engineer with deep family roots in France’s political world — her grandfather was once ambassador to the United States and her father is mayor of a small town on the outskirts of the capital. She herself was mayor of the Paris suburb of Longjumeau until this year.