Parisians set to get their first ever female mayor

Parisians set to get their first ever female mayor
Anne Hidalgo (left); Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet (right) vye to become the first female mayor of Paris.

PARIS - It's a battle that is guaranteed to make history.

A fiery, "killer" former minister and the left-wing daughter of Spanish immigrants are vying to become the first female mayor of Paris.

The two women have for months been engaged in a fierce duel to try and persuade Parisians voting in municipal elections on March 23 and 30 to trust them with one of the most high-profile roles in French politics: one widely seen as a potential stepping stone to higher office.

In the right corner, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a redhead, 40-year-old mother-of-two and self-declared political "killer" who graduated from the elite Ecole Polytechnique university.

A former ecology minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy, she is now a lawmaker from the main opposition UMP party that has been hit hard recently by several corruption cases and scandals.

On the left, Anne Hidalgo, 54, seen as serious but lacking pazazz, who is only just emerging from the shadow of her boss, current Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe.

With no previous ministerial experience, the brunette has been Delanoe's deputy for nearly 13 years.

She has tried to put some distance between her campaign and the current policies of a Socialist government suffering from record popularity lows, and poll after poll has given her as the winner.

'I am a killer'

The duel between Kosciusko-Morizet - widely known as "NKM" - and Hidalgo has been marked more by acrimonious digs directed against each other than by their policies for the future of the city of 2.2 million inhabitants.

Kosciusko-Morizet's team reportedly qualified the contest as a "battle between the star and the caretaker", in what was seen as a catty reference to Hidalgo's Iberian heritage (the concierges of Paris apartment buildings are often Portuguese).

Hidalgo hit back by accusing NKM of being part of a privileged "caste" cut off from the real world.

And while she lacks the flamboyance of Kosciusko-Morizet, her campaign has been smoother than that of her overtly ambitious rival.

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