Three women are contending for the Paris mayor's office in the coronavirus-delayed run-off election on June 28: Socialist incumbent Anne Hidalgo, conservative Rachida Dati, who served as former president Nicolas Sarkozy's justice minister, and Agnès Buzyn, who was centrist President Emmanuel Macron's health minister until February. FRANCE 24 takes a look at their plans and their chances.
Vying for a new six-year term, Hidalgo stands as the favourite. She topped the voting in the first round on March 15, two days before France withdrew into Covid-19 lockdown. But challengers Dati and Buzyn may also have a shot at running Paris City Hall.
For all three, turnout is key. With virus fears hanging over the first-round ballot in March — Macron had already announced the closure of schools, many of which were polling stations on voting day — abstention was high. Only 44.66 percent of French voters turned out for the municipal elections nationwide. In Paris, the figure was even lower, at 42.3 percent.
Three months on, voters seem just as reticent to head to the ballot box a week from Sunday. In a survey by the Ifop polling firm released Monday, only 38 percent of those called to the polls are planning to vote in the 4,827 mayoralty races that weren't decided after the first round. A full 29 percent of those who say they don't want to go cast a ballot attribute the decision "solely to the risk of being affected by coronavirus". Still, many traditionally make up their minds about voting within days of an election.
In the meantime, Hidalgo, Dati and Buzyn are each betting on very distinct electoral strategies. Each had the opportunity to showcase her campaign during a televised debate on Wednesday evening.
Anne Hidalgo, the environment first and foremost
With her 29.33 percent score in the first round, Mayor Hidalgo has a relatively comfortable advance heading into the run-off, especially after sealing an alliance with greens leader David Belliard, the Europe Écologie-Les Verts candidate, who finished fourth on March 15 with 10.79 percent of the vote.
The alliance was not unexpected — the incumbent Socialist governed together with the greens during her first term. The agreement sees Hidalgo become the sole candidate remaining on the left and the torchbearer for green issues. The united platform, presented on Tuesday, pledges the renovation of social housing, the implementation of the "first bioclimatic local urban masterplan in France" (bioclimatic design adapts a project's architecture to its environment) and the creation of a municipal energy authority (on the model of the city's water utility, Eau de Paris).
Très heureux d'être avec @Anne_Hidalgo et les équipes de @ParisEnCommun à la rencontre des commerçants et des habitant.e.s du 9ème arrondissement ! Pour présenter le projet ambitieux que nous portons ensemble et écrire une nouvelle page de l'histoire de Paris pic.twitter.com/IFXCARqbvx
— David Belliard (@David_Belliard) June 2, 2020
Hidalgo is also proposing an end to diesel vehicles inside Paris city limits by 2024, capping the speed limit at 30 km/h almost everywhere in the French capital, creating a network of "vélopolitain" cycle highways for biking across the greater Paris area and transforming half of the city's street-parking in order to widen sidewalks. She also wants to "pedestrianise and plant greenery on the spaces surrounding 300 schools" and to create at least one pedestrian centre in each of the city's 20 arrondissements. The Périphérique ring road would also be transformed, Hidalgo pledges, with carpool/bus/taxi lanes and, eventually, a bike path.
As for the economy, the Socialist incumbent wants to "accompany" its post-lockdown relaunch. The city of Paris is putting €60 million towards the cause, including €5 million to support "positive-impact tourism" (green tourism compatible with the fight against climate change), €15 million for artists and cultural players, €6 million towards cultural start-ups, shops and business, and €4 million towards the solidarity economy.
Rachida Dati, tactical voting as a strategy
Outpaced by Hidalgo in the first round on 22.72 percent, Les Républicains' Dati is wagering on the so-called useful vote, hoping to consolidate Hidalgo's detractors to put her over the top on June 28. To do that, she will need to lure voters who preferred La République en Marche candidate Agnès Buzyn on March 15.
The political calculus is simple: An Ifop-Fiducial poll for the second round lends Hidalgo 44 percent of the vote, versus 33 percent for Dati and 20 percent for Buzyn. Dati reasons that more than half of voters want to give their say to someone other than the incumbent. Convinced that "everything is open", the conservative Dati is encouraging turnout with a website aimed at facilitating voting by proxy so her voters won't see the election "stolen" from them.
The two-term mayor of Paris's affluent seventh arrondissement, Dati's platform addresses conservative voters first and foremost, calling for armed municipal police, family-centric policy proposing notably that the highest means-based school lunch fees be scrapped and, coronavirus oblige, a relaunch plan "for businesses at risk of closure". Dati has slammed Hidalgo for her record on security and cleanliness and has called for creating cleaning brigades that could be called on to intervene 24/7.
But Dati also needs Buzyn's more centrist voters to win the race for Paris City Hall. She has repeatedly called her own bid "the only one capable of bringing change to Paris" and levied stinging jabs at her centrist foe. "I don't need a ball-and-chain for baggage," she said last week to explain the absence of any alliance with Buzyn's LREM, which had rebuffed the notion.
During the televised debate on Wednesday, Dati and Buzyn clashed over the endorsement the conservative received from far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen. The populist Le Pen said last week she'd vote for Dati herself if she had any say in the Paris race, calling Hidalgo "the worst mayor that could exist".
On Wednesday, Buzyn, who had accused Dati of reconciling Marine Le Pen with her estranged far-right-icon father Jean-Marie with her platform, reproached Dati for having supported Sens commun, a group opposed to gay marriage, and for making "unspeakable remarks" about migrants. Dati retorted that Buzyn's volley was "a serious attack on my honour and on who I am", recalling a time when Dati "worked with Simone Veil", the late Holocaust survivor and revered French stateswoman.
Buzyn interrupted, demanding "a bit of decency" of Dati and telling her "you are obliged to cite a French icon to justify yourself". (Buzyn, it bears noting, was married to Veil's son Pierre-François, with whom she has three children.) To which Dati retorted, "Madame Buzyn's values are lying to the French."
Agnès Buzyn, in line with the government
With just 17.26 percent of the vote, Buzyn placed well behind the frontrunning pair in the first round. She had only stepped down as health minister in February, in the middle of the global coronavirus crisis, to replace Benjamin Griveaux as the party's candidate for Paris City Hall. President Macron's party had found itself without a flagbearer after Griveaux, a longtime Macron ally, suddenly withdrew from the race over sex tape allegations. After the March 15 ballot, Buzyn dropped off the radar for weRead More – Source
Aliku Ogorchukwu: Wife of Nigerian killed in Italy demands justice
The wife of a Nigerian street trader who was killed in Italy has told the BBC she is seeking justice following his “painful death”.
Aliku Ogorchukwu, 39, was reportedly selling handkerchiefs in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche on Friday when he was chased and beaten to death.
A 32-year-old Italian has been arrested on suspicion of murder and robbery.
A video circulating online shows a man on top of Ogorchukwu, punching him with his bare hands.
None of those who witnessed the broad daylight attack appeared to intervene.
“This is a form of wickedness I don’t know,” Ogorchukwu’s wife, Charity Oriachi, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa.
Ms Oriachi said she had received help in coming to terms with her husband’s death but was tired of “talk”. Now, she was only interested in justice, she insisted.
Her family had lived in Italy for a long time, she said, stressing that her husband had never sought any trouble.
The killing has sparked outrage in the local community, including Nigerians, who took to the streets over the weekend and are planning another demonstration soon.
The Nigerian government has asked Italian authorities to quickly “bring the perpetrator of the heinous act” to justice.
Suspect not released
The suspect – a white man named as Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo – has been ordered to remain in jail as the investigation continues.
His defence lawyer told the media the suspect had said he was sorry and that there was “no racial element” involved.
A police investigator said Ogorchukwu was attacked after the trader’s “insistent” requests to the suspect and his partner for spare change.
The partner, identified as Elena D, told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that Ogorchukwu had touched her arm, but that did not bother her.
Ms Oriachi now wants to see the suspect “face to face”, to understand why he killed her husband, the family’s lawyer told the Associated Press.
Ukrainian widow confronts Russian soldier accused of killing her husband
In the very first days of this invasion a 62-year-old unarmed civilian was shot dead on a village street outside his Ukrainian home. His name was Oleksandr Shelipov.
Three months later and the captured Russian soldier accused of killing him is in Kyiv being tried for a war crime.
Standing up in court to confront the 21-year-old defendant on Thursday was Kateryna Shelipova, the widow of the man killed.
Did he repent his crime, she asked?
The Russian tank commander, Vadim Shishimarin, replied that he admitted his guilt and asked for her forgiveness. “But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me,” he added.
Kateryna Shelipova hadn’t finished. “Tell me please, why did you [Russians] come here? To protect us?” she asked, citing Vladimir Putin’s justification for the invasion of Ukraine.
“Protect us from whom? Did you protect me from my husband, whom you killed?”
The soldier had no answer to that.
This landmark trial marks the first time a Russian serviceman has been put on the stand for war crimes since the invasion of Ukraine was launched in February.
And perhaps such raw encounters are what such trials are about, at least in part. Forcing a soldier – who ignored all the rules of war – to face up to exactly what he has done and the suffering he has caused.
Sgt Shishimarin has pleaded guilty and Ukrainian prosecutors are asking for him to be sentenced to life imprisonment.
On Wednesday, Ms Shelipova told me she actually felt sorry for the soldier, but she could not forgive him for this crime.
She heard the shots that killed her husband, then saw Sgt Shishimarin through her gate – holding his weapon.
Five minutes later she says she saw her husband’s body: “He was dead with a shot in his head. I started screaming very loudly.”
“The loss of my husband is everything for me,” Ms Shelipova said, adding: “He was my protector.”
‘It killed him’
Recalling the events of 28 February, Vadim Shishimarin said he and a small group of other Russian soldiers had become separated from their unit and hijacked a car in order to return to it.
“As we were driving, we saw a man. He was talking on the phone,” the defendant said.
He claimed that he hadn’t wanted to fire the fatal shots, that he was following orders – threatened by another soldier if he refused to do as he was told.
“He said I would be putting us in danger if I didn’t. I shot him at short range. It killed him,” the 21-year-old tank commander told the court.
Interestingly, his defence lawyer – appointed by the state – told me that no Russian official has been in touch with him, including from its defence ministry.
There is no Russian embassy in Kyiv these days, so no contact from there either.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman yesterday told the BBC that the Kremlin has “no information” about this case.
All in all, it feels rather like the young soldier has been abandoned to his fate by the commanders who sent him to war and continue to deny that their forces commit crimes here.
We also heard from a second Russian soldier who witnessed the killing in February and later surrendered to Ukrainian forces.
Ivan Maltysev, another slight and young-looking 21-year-old, told the court how the Russian soldiers spotted Oleksandr Shelipov while they were driving the stolen car.
Mr Maltysev claimed that Vadim Shishimarin was then ordered to shoot the victim because he was on the phone.
“Vadim didn’t do it. So the soldier, whose name I don’t know, turned round in the car and shouted that Vadim had to carry out the order, or we would be informed on.
“At this point, we were almost alongside the civilian and, under pressure, Vadim fired. He fired three or four rounds.”
Ukraine has so far identified more than 11,000 possible war crimes committed by Russia.
Moscow has denied its troops have targeted civilians, but investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
This trial is Ukraine’s chance to prove, beyond doubt, that a Russian soldier killed a civilian with no regard for the rules of war.
Its prosecutors know they are in the spotlight, proceeding so quickly, and in the middle of a war.
That is why they are keen to be as transparent and thorough as possible – so that this is not seen as a show trial, but part of a vital quest for justice.
Stop matching lone female Ukraine refugees with single men, UK told
The UN refugee agency has called on the UK government to intervene to stop single British men from being matched up with lone Ukrainian women seeking refuge from war because of fears of sexual exploitation.
Following claims that predatory men are using the Homes for Ukraine scheme to target the vulnerable, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) told the Guardian “a more appropriate matching process” could be put in place to ensure women and women with children are matched with families or couples.
The suggestion from the global refugee agency follows reports that Ukrainian refugees, predominantly women and sometimes accompanied by children, are at risk in the UK of sexual exploitation.
Under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, British hosts must link up with Ukrainian refugees themselves, leaving tens of thousands of people to resort to unregulated social media groups to connect.
A government-backed matching service run by the charity Reset offers to match UK hosts with refugees but has been operating for just over a week. Those who want to move to the UK must have a sponsor before applying for a visa.
In a statement, the UNHCR said there was a need for adequate safeguards and vetting measures to be in place against exploitation, as well as adequate support for sponsors. “[The] UNHCR believes that a more appropriate matching process could be put in place by ensuring that women and women with children are matched with families or couples, rather than with single men.
“Matching done without the appropriate oversight may lead to increasing the risks women may face, in addition to the trauma of displacement, family separation and violence already experienced,” a spokesperson said.
Leading refugee charities raised their concerns about the Homes for Ukraine scheme in a letter to Michael Gove, the minister in charge of the scheme. Louise Calvey, the head of safeguarding at the charity Refugee Action, told the Observer it was at risk of being a “Tinder for sex traffickers”.
One 32-year-old woman from Bakhmut, Ukraine, who has been searching for an appropriate person to match in the UK, wrote that she had received suggestive messages from men on Facebook’s Messenger app. “I was approached by one older guy from London who said that I would have to share a bedroom with him, and was asked if I was OK with that,” she said in an email seen by the Guardian.
The Sunday Times reported this week that a journalist posing as a 22-year-old Ukrainian woman from Kyiv found that within minutes of posting a message on the largest Facebook group for UK hosts she was inundated with inappropriate messages.
Some men lied about having several bedrooms in their one-bed homes while another proposed sharing a bed, writing: “I have a large bed. We could sleep together.” Another sent a voice note that said: “I am ready to help you and maybe you can help me also.”
In its statement, the UNHCR also raised concerns about the repercussions should the original UK host prove a potential threat to the safety of the refugee, and the six-month minimum duration on the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
“UNHCR believes that appropriate training and information are needed to ensure that hosts make an informed decision when applying to become sponsors. Housing a stranger in an extra bedroom for an extended period is not, for some people, sustainable,” the spokesperson said.
There is growing public anger over the length of time that Ukrainians are being forced to wait before being given visas from the Home Office amid the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the second world war.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, apologised on Friday for the time it had taken for Ukrainian refugees to arrive in the UK under two visa schemes, after figures showed only 12,000 had so far reached Britain.
Reports on Tuesday claimed Gove had been accused of bullying Home Office officials by Patel’s permanent secretary, Matthew Rycroft.
Asked to respond to the UNHCR’s request for an intervention on sexual exploitation of Ukrainian women, a government spokesperson said: “Attempts to exploit vulnerable people are truly despicable – this is why we have designed our Homes for Ukraine scheme to have specific safeguards in place, including robust security and background checks on all sponsors, both by the Home Office and local authorities.
“Councils must make at least one in-person visit to a sponsors property and following guests arrival, they have a duty to ensure the guest is safe and well.
“We have also partnered with the charity Reset Communities and Refugees to fund and provide a matching service for sponsors and refugees to ensure that matches made are suitable, safe and successful. This service will vet eligibility, assess needs, and provide training for sponsors to ensure they
ensure they can support the people they host.”
Asked to confirm or deny whether there had been a complaint that Gove had bullied staff, the spokesperson added: “Humanitarian schemes set up in record time by the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities working closely together are helping thousands of Ukrainians find safety in the UK.”
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