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Friday, 9 March, 2001, 15:15 GMT
Profile: 'Glad to be grey' candidate
Bertrand Delanoe
Charisma bypass: Bertrand Delanoe is seen as dull
The man set to take Paris for the left for the first time since the 1871 Commune is no revolutionary - quite the opposite.

He has turned greyness into a political virtue, in a city which has had its fill of charisma and corruption.

Delanoe's strength is that he's coming from nowhere

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin
His dull, man-of-the-people manner and commitment to clean politics have given off the right signals, observers believe, to convince voters that he will not repeat the excesses of recent right-wing administrations.

Some correspondents believe a passionate and hyperactive man lies beneath the studied greyness; that he has deliberately embarked on a low-key campaign to reassure voters.

Either way, the Paris senator seems to have benefited from a form of Gaullist fatigue syndrome, with voters ready to punish the right-wingers for the years of abuse of power.

Philippe Seguin
Punchy: But Philippe Seguin has lost out to quieter rival
The chain-smoking Mr Delanoe contrasts in just about every way possible with his right-wing rival, Philippe Seguin.

Mr Seguin is charismatic, short, rotund, heterosexual, and a household name.

Mr Delanoe is tall, thin, gay and, in political terms, a virtual nobody.

His declaration of homosexuality, made in response to a journalist's question two years ago, has not hindered him, in a country where you could count the number of openly gay senior politicians on the fingers of one hand.

Despite the inevitable "Gay Paree" jibes in foreign newspapers, observers say that at home, Mr Delanoe has achieved the status of being a politician who happens to be gay, rather than a gay politician.

He had the courage to tell it to everybody - he tells what he is and if people have a problem with that it is too bad for them

Paris voter on
Mr Delanoe's homosexuality
Mr Delanoe's greyness has also been tinged with green. His plans for Paris include a boost for bicyles - forcing traffic out of whole chunks of Paris, with cheap bikes for hire at main Metro stations and a pedestrian paradise around parts of the Seine.

Mr Delanoe even wants to build a roof over parts of the noisy orbital motorway-cum-racetrack, the Peripherique, which runs around central Paris.

Promises to boost creche facilities have endeared him to other voters.

My first priority for Paris is the creation of creches for children - we have the least number of places for under threes in the whole of France

Bertrand Delanoe
He has stressed throughout that he wants to be mayor because he loves Paris - not to use the job as a springboard to greater things.

Bertrand Delanoe was born in Tunisia, but returned to France with his family as a teenager.

A former Socialist Party bureaucrat, he enjoyed a spell as a rising star in its political ranks.

But after suffering an electoral defeat, he withdrew to the sidelines and founded a public relations and advertising agency instead.

If Paris moves to the left and to someone gay, it will show in some ways a deep evolution, that such a conservative city would move that way

Political analyst Dominic Moisi
He was not the socialists' first or even second choice to run for mayor. Former Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn was forced out by a fraud inquiry; the flamboyant ex-minister Jack Lang was ruled out after rejoining the government.

Mr Delanoe's dogged campaign paid off, and he was anointed socialist candidate.

The last time the left controlled Paris, it was after the bloody uprising that was the 1871 Commune.

It was more than 100 years before the city was allowed back out of government control, and has remained solidly right-wing ever since - launching Jacques Chirac into the French presidency.

Now the grey man, whose hero is reputedly Robin Hood, may able to achieve what the revolutionaries could not: a solidly socialist capital with the will of the people behind him.

See also:

09 Mar 01 | Europe
09 Mar 01 | Europe
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