Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo launches bid to be France's next president

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Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris, has thrown her hat in the ring to become France's next president.

"I want to do everything with you to repair, (...), to build a fairer France," she said from the industrial northern city of Rouen.

"I want all children in France to have the same opportunities I had,” she added, invoking her roots as the child of Spanish immigrants who fled Francisco Franco's rule.

Hidalgo, 62, has lead the French capital since 2014 and is the favourite to win the Socialist ticket for next year's presidential ballot.

But the French electorate has largely turned its back on the left-wing party since the 2017 presidential election, won by centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Then, the Socialist party (PS), in power over the previous five years, finished fifth in the first round, gathering just 6.36% of the vote.

The following parliamentary elections saw the party lose nearly 270 seats to retain fewer than 30. The electoral drubbing continued two years later with the PS coming last in the European parliamentary elections.

In her pitch to voters on Sunday, Hidalgo said that should she become the first French female president, she would champion wage equality.

She also pledged to boost salaries, decarbonise the economy, implement a "massive plan for hospitals" and oversee a "successful decentralisation" away from Paris and into the hands of local elected representatives.

"The five-year term that is coming to an end was supposed to unite the French, but it has divided them like never before. It was supposed to solve social problems, it has made them worse. It was supposed to protect our planet, it has turned its back on ecology," she said.

She added that she decided to run because of the country's "worrying" situation and accused Macron of having "turned his back on ecology."

The PS is to select its candidate through a primary system, open only to the party's 50,000 members. In 2017, the party had opened the vote to every French citizen with the ticket going to a candidate to the left of the party, Benoit Hamon, who had been unable to rally centrist voters under the party's banners.

If she wins the candidacy, Hidalgo will face a crowded field.

The French left is bitterly divided and at least four other parties will field candidates including the populist France Insoumise party, the Communist Party, Lutte Ouvriere and the Greens.

Macron has yet to announce his bid to remain at the Elysee for a second term but is largely expected to. Meanwhile, several people are already in the running to secure the ticket for the right-wing Les Republicains party. Marine Le Pen, of the far-right Rassemblement National, has already started campaigning.

Polls currently predict Macron and Le Pen will once again face off in the second round. Hidalgo is for now expected to come in fifth with between 7% and 9% of the vote after the right-wing candidate and Jean-Luc Mélanchon of the France Insoumise party.

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