Two French politicians began their presidential campaigns on Sunday, trying to become France’s first female leader in next year’s spring election.
The far-right National Rally party’s Marine Le Pen and the Socialist Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, launched their presidential platforms as expected.
They join a growing list of challengers to centrist President Emmanuel Macron, including battles among potential candidates on the right involving another female politician, Valerie Pecresse, and among the Greens.
Ms Hidalgo, 62, the Mayor of Paris since 2014, is the favourite to win the Socialist Party nomination. She launched her candidacy in the north-western city of Rouen.
“I want all children in France to have the same opportunities I had,” she said.
Ms Hidalgo is the daughter of Spanish immigrants who fled their country in search of freedom during dictator Francisco Franco’s rule.
Ms Le Pen, 53, the leader of France’s far-right party, started her campaign in the southern city of Frejus with a pledge to defend French “liberty.”
In keeping with a hard-right message that critics say has vilified Muslim communities, Ms Le Pen promised to be tough on “parts of France that have been Talibanised".
Although she launched her candidacy this year, on Sunday she made Jordan Bardella, 26, the acting head of the party as her campaign goes into full gear.
Ms Le Pen is also remaking her image for this election. Gone is the dark blue wardrobe that has been her trademark.
She now will be wearing light blue for the campaign, “to show our vision, less partisan, [reaching] higher", her special councillor Philippe Olivier told conservative daily Le Figaro.
Mr Macron, 43, has not yet announced his re-election bid but is expected to do so. Launching a candidacy in France is a necessary formality for each presidential election.
The vote is expected to come down to a duel between Ms Le Pen and Mr Macron, as it was during France’s last presidential election, in 2017.