Paris’ openly gay Mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, has confirmed he will run for a second term and outlined a green, socially conscious programme for re-election.
“My programme is aimed at placing Paris ahead of the curve,” Mr Delanoe told Le Parisien.
The confirmation of his campaign has done little to stifle suggestions he could become 2012 presidential candidate for the Socialists, however.
The Mayor enjoys solid approval ratings in the French capital following the success of various pet projects he was pushed through a troublesome Green/Socialist alliance at city hall.
Despite his party’s defeat to Nicolas Sarkozy at the parliamentary elections, the Socialists made significant gains in Paris, winning 13 out of 21 districts. This result sparked rumours of a future presidential bid.
Mr Delanoe’s ‘Paris Plage’ project, in which he oversaw the creation of a man-made beach on the banks of the Sienne, was an unexpected success and continues to draw substantial crowds in the summer months.
His attempted assassination in October 2002 did no harm to his popularity either.
Mr Delanoe was stabbed during the ‘Nuit Blanche’ Parisian festival while socialising with the crowds.
His assailant, Azedine Berkane, reportedly told police: “he hated politicians, the Socialist Party, and the homosexuals.”
Before being taken to hospital the Mayor ordered that festivities continued.
Plans outlined yesterday would see more widespread access to wi-fi and affordable housing a consolidation of his free bicycle rental programme together with the redirection of traffic from the Sienne to other parts of the city.
“I am not anti-car. I am anti-pollution,” he said.
“I want Paris to be the first European metropolis to strictly enforce European standards” for environmental protection.
But the Mayor was forced to respond to criticism that Paris had become a haven for the French bourgeoisie and to bat away inquiries about his presidential ambitions.
Many visitors are shocked by the division between racial groups in Paris, with the majority of immigrant groups being swept out to ghettoes (banlieues) in the outskirts of the city while the centre becomes ever more white and middle class.
The tensions in the city erupted into riots in 2005, with many observers warning of further violence unless the situation is addressed.
Paris became the world’s second largest city with an openly gay Mayor, after Berlin, following its election of Mr Delanoe.
He famously announced his sexuality in a television interview in 1998 before becoming Mayor.