Two women campaign to become France's 1st female president

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FILE - This combo of file photos shows at left, Socialist mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo announces her candidacy for the upcoming presidential election in France next year, Normandy, France, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, and at right, French far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen gives a press conference, at the National Assembly, in Paris, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. Two politicians have formally declared their intentions to seek to become Frances first female president in next years spring election. National Rallys Marine Le Pen and Paris Socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, both officially launched their campaigns Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021 in what were widely expected moves. (AP Photo/Michel Euler/Thibault Camus)

PARIS – Two French politicians kicked off their presidential campaigns Sunday, seeking to become France’s first female leader in next year’s spring election.

The far-right National Rally party's Marine Le Pen and Paris' Socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, both launched their presidential platforms in widely expected moves.

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They join a burgeoning list of challengers to centrist President Emmanuel Macron. This includes battles among multiple potential candidates on the right — including another female politician Valerie Pecresse — and among the Greens.

Hidalgo, 62, mayor of the French capital since 2014, is the favorite to win the Socialist Party nomination. She launched her candidacy in the northwestern city of Rouen.

“I want all children in France to have the same opportunities I had,” she said, invoking her roots. Hidalgo is the daughter of Spanish immigrants who fled their country in search of freedom amid dictator Francisco Franco's rule.

Le Pen, the 53-year-old 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, Le Pen promised to be tough on “parts of France that have been Talibanized.” Although she launched her candidacy earlier this year, on Sunday she made 26-year-old Jordan Bardella the acting head of the party as her campaign goes into full gear.

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 donning light blue for the campaign, “to show our vision, less partisan, (reaching) higher,” Le Pen’s special councillor Philippe Olivier was quoted as saying by Le Figaro, the conservative daily.

Macron, 43, has not yet announced his reelection 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 boil down to a duel between Le Pen and Macron, as it was during France's last presidential election in 2017.

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