Paris 2020 municipal elections: caveats and challenges
for la Ville-lumière
After the transportation strikes that blocked the city for over a month in opposition to French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, the year 2020 seems to continue on the path of 2019, conveying radical changes and bouleversements for the French political universe.
Well before the deciding presidential elections which
will be held in 2022, the current year appears to be crucial for political
parties. In point of fact, in March 2020 the political scenario will be largely
dominated by the upcoming municipal elections; for the sake of this article,
our attention will vert solely on Paris.
As to avoid simplistic conclusions as well as spurious
and scattered information, first and foremost we will provide introductory
premises regarding the nature of the electoral system and the incumbent
French political tradition is consistently conjoined
with the Two-Round System, given that presidential, legislative, regional and
departmental elections all employ the system. The first round resembles the
typical First Past the Post (FPTP) system; if a candidate receives an absolute
majority of the vote, then it is elected outright with no need for a second
ballot. Otherwise, in case no candidate receives an absolute majority, then a second
voting round is conducted. The candidate who wins the most votes in the second
round will be then elected. For the French National Assembly, all candidates
winning more than 12.5% of the votes of registered voters, or the top two
candidates, go through the second ballot.
In the case of municipal elections, a Two-Round system
is exerted only for municipalities with more than one thousand residents. While
it is slightly more representative at the constituency level than the First
Past the Post (FPTP), it is deemed to be highly disproportional while
artificially boosting large parties.
city, there was a land” (Cronon,1991).
In his book, William Cronon
recounts how Chicago was formed out of a city-less landscape, by people who migrated
there and crafted the urban scenery through cultural and economic exchanges.
Cities are not structures, cities are people, or better, they are the people
who live them. This is why their destinies are so dissimilar one from the
other. Assuming the equation city = people,
in a social Darwinistic perspective cities can be considered to be struggling
for survival too. Their success or their failure, their sterility or their
blossoming, is strictly dependent on the renewed impulses of its inhabitants. What
this brief and not exhaustive excursus wishes to highlight, is how significant
a mayor can be for an urban space.
Since 2014 elections, Paris has been administered by the socialist Anne
the first women to conquer the French capital and one of the most prominent
figures of the Socialist party on the national chessboard. Portrayed as strict
and inflexible, the Socialist mayor of Paris has stood and still stands as a
symbol of resistance to the ballot-box domination of 2017 which saw the macronian
party La République En Marche! (LREM)
winning 12 out of 18 National Assembly seats. In between acclaims and harsh
criticism, she has renewed her willingness to be elected and has launched her
campaign for 2020.
According to the French newspaper Le
Monde, around 60 percent from a sample of 2.942 electors, have expressed
their dissent towards a putative re-election of Hidalgo; despite this fact, the
polls still deem the incumbent mayor to be the favourite, just before Benjamin
Her term has seen efforts to strive towards a “eco-friendlier” city,
including battles to thin out car traffic as well as an array of construction
projects throughout the city which have appraised a positive record on
La République En
Marche (LREM) has
indeed been characterized by an odd schism within its proposed candidates. The
official name has been the one of Benjamin Griveaux,
who won the seat in the fifth constituency of Paris during the 2017 legislative
elections, with 56.27 percent of the vote. His campaign seems to be proactive
and verts around urban planning pillars, like the pretentious project of a
Parisian “Central Park”. Howbeit, during the summer another LREM affiliate
decided to take a stand in the mayor race. Cédric Villani,
French deputy and university professor but with an Italian heritage, is best
known for being a mathematician rather than a political leader, winning in 2010
the Fields prize for a pioneering empirical work.
His growing consensus, despite Macron’s latent dissent, is probably due
to his willingness to have a direct contact with citizens; within his
proposals, the desire to create a parallel body to the parish council, composed
by citizens and experts in the socio-economic realm. His attempt represents a
forceful rupture and a quantum leap towards inclusiveness under the aegis of
horizontal subsidiarity. Quite hazardously, it may appear a sui generis tentative co-governance.
From the part of the Republicans, the presented candidate is Rachida
her proposals will focus primarily on the well-known rightist triad of
security, health and family. At the moment, the polls attest her to be the
fourth most favoured candidate.
The Green Party’s nominee has been for David Belliard,
journalist and president of the group at the parish council. Given the fracture
from the macronian side, the ecologists will be increasingly relevant and
weighty during the campaign. Quite coherently with his party affiliation, the
proposed plan for Paris, is to commute it into a ville nature, so a “city of nature”, with particular attention on
climate change challenges, tourism and traffic spillovers (namely, limiting
The scenario seems to be quite scattered and fragmented in light of a large
supply side. The Socialist candidate Hidalgo leads the polls, followed by
Griveaux (LREM), Villani (Independent), Dati (LR) and Belliard (EELV), while
leaving a marginal and insignificant role to the candidates Rassemblement National and France Insoumise.
After our considerations and suppositions around Paris municipal
elections, candidates and their tailored programmes, we ought to ask whether
the upcoming mayor will be a blessing or a curse for a city facing growing
challenges in terms of security, migration, increasing costs and climate
issues. Each candidate’s programme pinpoints on issues such as urban planning,
measures for a “greener” Paris, more involvement form the part of the citizens
and security, although the latter seems quite marginal. Will their tentative
effort be enough or remain exclusively heuristic in value? Will he or she will
be capable to restore the grandeur of la
What is my government doing? Where are the time and resources being invested? How are those investments shaping my community today, and how could they shape it differently tomorrow? These questions are at the foundation of an open government able to be transparent and accountable for the decisions it takes. The almost total access to the internet reached in the last two decades generates unprecedented loads of data produced. Money and people flow can now be tracked and recorded by governments and citizens, and new potential of information for collective decision-making is changing democracies worldwide. Open data means that more actors can analyze and create solutions that were previously only in the hands of governments. So challenges like climate change become more evident, and new tools for policymaking and public spending, such as online participatory budgets, of frequent use.
Following such positive premises, the Open Government Partnership was formed in 2011. This network of countries was created by a group of government leaders and civil society advocates who came together to create a unique partnership, one that combines these powerful forces to promote accountable, responsive, and inclusive governance. As of now, seventy-eight countries and a growing number of local governments representing more than two billion people, along with thousands of civil society organizations, are members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). As publicly reminded by president Obama in 2016, one of the OPGs creators and most influential advocates, the partnership still has a long way to go to keep on promoting public actions towards a more participative, accountable, digital, and transparent way of managing public affairs.
The Fourth ItalianPlan for Open Government
The Fourth Plan for Open Government is the fourth national Plan made by the Italian government for the period 2019-2020. Italy has its OGP working group within the Department for Public Administration to draw up an action strategy and monitor a multitude of innovative initiatives. The OGP team drafted the Plan and coordinated the work of all the administrations and actors involved. Indeed, the document is the result of an intense exchange with civil society representatives who are members of the Open Government Forum, an assembly open to all organizations dealing with open government issues. The Plan was drafted in a participatory way. This is why it has also been online for three weeks for a public consultation accessible to all citizens. Thus, those who wanted to give their contribution before publishing could leave a comment on the website. To understand more about the Plan, we met Marco Marrazza and Stefano Pizzicanella, who are coordinating the open government strategy for Italy.
Marco, how would you describe Open government, and what is the role of the Ministry?
The concept of open government is a bit ambivalent, a digital administration becomes more transparent and accountable, but a ministry can have a culture of “openness” even if it is all on paper. Having a more advanced tech level does not mean more participation. Here at the Ministry, we work as coordinators, and we are part of the whole public administration’s action. In the Fourth Plan, we have ministries and regions, so we are not the only ones responsible, but we pull the strings of these actions. So, when, for example, the government changes, we have to re-explain all the actions and strategy we set up because people change.
Let’s talk about the Fourth Plan, is it continuing the action of the previous plan?
This Plan is more than a continuation. It is a new strategy that benefits from the experience gained in the first three plans. From the second Plan onwards, in 2013, the theme of open governance received a political endorsement: the Minister of our Department came to know of the partnership’s existence, and Italy was able to enter the steering committee, increasing the visibility of the Plan. With the third Plan, we created the Civil Society Forum, which is chaired by the Minister, and where many associations can discuss public administration problems and solutions. The Fourth Plan greatly benefited from the increased political visibility and the presence of the forum. Compared to the past, it has been easier to meet the associations and aggregate the numerous proposals we received.
What are the actions concretely?
We put various actors in communication. While drafting the Fourth Plan, we put different administrations together. Each administration brought action proposals; we reached 40 actions then aggregated in 10 streams: 1. Open data; 2. Transparency; 3. Register of beneficial owners; 4. Support for participation; 5. Regulation of stakeholder; 6. Culture of open government; 7. Corruption prevention; 8. Simplification, performance, and equal opportunities; 9. Digital services; 10. Digital citizenship and skills. The new program tends towards a strategic vision rather than separate actions. In this way, administrations have to coordinate. It is difficult to talk about a single goal for each action. The idea of the partnership is to raise the level of the bar and do “challenging actions.” For example, expanding transparency on the public administration lobby, creating a better capacity to consult citizens, or creating open data where there is a real request. Open data is probably the most challenging area, as the administration must create a mechanism for the constant production of data, which means updated data while keeping up their usability. A classic example relates to transport: if the data are not exact, the app does not work.
How do you monitor the implementation?
The whole Plan is based on a gentlemen’s agreement, as the realization of actions of the Plan has no formal obligations. The two-year cycle allows making a more accurate monitor. There are two main tools of monitoring. The first involves the website, where citizens can check the progress of the different pages. The second independent report mechanism monitoring is the case of scholars who are summoned by the central OGP, who does a midterm and end-term-report. The Open Government Forum had a significant impact starting with the third Plan. The forum allowed bringing together representatives of civil society, academia, businesses, and consumer protection associations interested in open government issues, and who wish to participate actively in their application. These actors enter a mailing list, and there are two meetings a year in which all associations meet with the Minister. Critical issues and new subjects are highlighted for the attention of the Minister. Then the associations are invited to thematic tables, like participation, accountability, open data, digital skills to discuss.
What is the relationship between participation and an open government?
The relationship between open government and participation is mediated by communication, one main fundamental aspect. With this in mind, we introduce an open government tool to communicate and create participation. We are establishing a dedicated portal, which will become the point of access to consultations organized by public administrations. Citizens wishing to participate in consultations will have a single place to visit and receive alerts. The portal would help support, through specific editorial staff, the dissemination of consultation initiatives and the compliance with consultation quality standards by public administrations. To this end, practical guidelines inspired by the best international practices will be produced. Special attention will be to administrations by offering open-source consultation, setting up a dedicated help desk, and providing specific training to public employees. Another step at the regional level will be developing the macro objective “participation,” meaning the transition from mere transparency on the public action to active citizen participation at the local level.
What is the central challenge of creating participative processes?
This challenge is to do quality consultations. The Fourth Action Plan has the aim of compelling, putting obligations, to those who want to do in the public administration consultation and say what the quality of the consultation should be. Otherwise, better not to do it and inform. Reporting the results of a consultation is critical. It is not about just giving the numbers but explaining the results and criteria of your choice promptly. Communication is a fundamental aspect of making participation.
What are some concrete tools promoted by the Plan on participation?
Indeed, this is the case of the creation of platforms for open consultations mentioned before. This platform will be at disposal for all the administrations that want to use it. This initiative sees the participation of the city of Rome and Milan. Every small town can access software, for which we will also provide courses. Cities can then create consultative processes as in the platform https://partecipa.gov.it/. The software refers to that of Barcelona called Decidim, a real success case. The other tool implemented during this Plan is a portal called consultazione.gov.it, a connection point where citizens go to find out what is happening in the world of public consultation in Italy. The citizens can connect and discover the various discussions and votes taking place. This site will also monitor and provide data. Everyone can read the text and monitor the implementation of all the actions and initiatives on the website open.gov.it with detailed information on their progress.
The third seminar aimed at (i) understanding how states may harness the potential of blockchain technologies through the presentation of different case studies (ii) and mapping the first forays of international organizations into these emerging technologies.
In the seminar, Prof. Iaione delivered a presentation, together with Prof. Sofia Ranchordas, on ‘Smart Public Contracts: Home for Future-Proofing Law?‘. The seminar gathered together experts of the field from all around the world. Concluding remarks from anthropological and sociological perspectives were given in the end to close the final seminar.
Find the detailed program inserted below with the speakers and the exact topics of their presentations or, alternatively here or here.
3rd Seminar: Blockchain Technologies at the Domestic and the International Levels
– Dr Lily Martinet, Dr Edouard Fromageau (MPI Luxembourg for Procedural Law)
States Harnessing the Potential of Blockchain Technologies
– Dr Lily Martinet (MPI Luxembourg for Procedural Law) Exercising Digital Sovereignty over the Blockchain – Dr Helen Eenmaa-Dimitrieva (University of Tartu) Sovereignty and Autonomy via Mathematics
– Ms Tian Lu (Maastricht University) The Implementation of Blockchain Technologies in Chinese Courts – Prof. Christian Iaione (Luiss Guido Carli University, LabGov.City), Prof. Sofia Ranchordas (University of Groningen) Smart Public Contracts: Home for Future-Proofing Law?
International Organisations Embracing the Blockchain
– Ms Emmanuelle Ganne (World Trade Organization) Blockchain and International Trade: From Tech to Regulation – The Need for an International Approach
– Dr Edouard Fromageau (MPI Luxembourg for Procedural Law) Uses of Blockchain by International Financial Institutions and their Legal Implications – Dr André Nunes Chaib (Maastricht University) What Role for the IMF in Regulating Virtual Currencies? – Prof. Nathalie Janson (NEOMA Business School and Sciences Po) Private Cryptocurrencies versus Central Bank Digital currencies: The War of Titans?
– Prof. Antoine Garapon (Institut des Hautes Etudes sur la Justice), Dr Jean Lassègue (CNRS)
The Milanese architecture firm “Stefano Boeri Architetti”, who projected the Vertical Forest in Milan, designed the plan for the first Smart Forestry City that will be based in Cancun, Mexico. It is expected to host up to 130.000 inhabitants, by replacing the project of a shopping center. The city will be built on a 5.57 km2, currently employed as a “sand quarry for hotels” (Endel 2019) and 4 km2 will be reserved for green spaces. There will be about 7.500.000 plants in the project and 260.000 will be trees. With a ratio of 2.3 trees per inhabitant, the Smart Forest City “will absorb 116.000 tons of carbon dioxide with 5.800 tons of CO2 stocked per year” (Endel 2019). Public parks, private gardens, green roofs, and green facades will help create a balance within the built environment.
The city has also been imagined to be completely food and energy self-sufficient. Indeed, it will be surrounded by solar panels and agricultural fields. Water will be gathered at the entrance of the city, next to the desalination tower and dispensed by a system of navigable channels in the whole settlement up to the agricultural fields that surround the urban area. Within the city, people will circulate via internal electric and semi-automatic mobility, leaving their cars outside of the city.
The Smart Forest City will also hold “a center for advanced research that could host all worldwide university departments, international organizations, and companies that deal with very important sustainability issues and the future of the planet” (Endel 2019).
The Smart Forest City definitely promotes the idea of sustainable city. In fact, the project seems to create a perfect habitat where human beings can live in total harmony with nature within the urban space. Apparently, this sounds like a perfect solution in a scenario where urbanization is expected to rise in the next years and climate change needs to be handled with innovative solutions. Indeed, this project not only seems to support the idea of reducing urban sprawl by creating dense and compact settlements, but it also seems to avoid one of the main challenges that urban density can bring, which is the lack of green space on urban footprints. Thus, one of the main critiques to the urban density discourse has been the idea that if land is consumed for increasing urban development, areas devoted to green will be necessarily reduced. However, the Smart forest city represents an anti-sprawl and densification project able to reduce urban expansion while increasing the quantity of green within the built city. “A model that connects to the policies for reforestation and naturalization of the edges of large urban and metropolitan areas” (Kucherova and Narvaez 2018: 5). In fact, as the Stefano Boeri Architetti firm’s manifesto states, the reforestation of the urban environment can be an extraordinary help to improve the quality of health and life in a city. Indeed, forests and trees absorb nearly 40% of fossil fuel emissions largely produced by cities every year.
However, there are some challenges which are not self-evident when looking at these projects. First, instead of building sustainable cities or eco-cities out of nowhere, believing that higher densities are necessarily good, planners may better consider that urban design is not enough to make cities more sustainable. As Laurence Crot highlighted, Masdar City (a planned city project initiated in 2006 in the United Arab Emirates) portrayed as the world first sustainable city and the example of Abu Dhabi’s new urban vision, has soon renounced to some of its most ambitious sustainability goals (2012: 2809) such as its car-free mission. Masdar City has been recently rebranded as a carbon neutral project and its previous zero-carbon commitment soon disappeared from the policy agenda. Indeed, eco-cities projects instead of representing the panacea for main environmental and urban challenges seem just able to bring a new label to neoliberal urban development plans, since they rarely innovate and seldom keep their promises of sustainability (Cugurullo 2018: 74). Another weakness associated with these brand-new urban solutions relates the issue of who could really afford to live in eco-cities or smart forestry city. In fact, density increases the price of land and in turn increases the price of housing. Moreover, reforestation means bringing new amenities in the built environment which represents a new source of housing unaffordability.
Though a project as the Smart Forest City represents a perfect solution to reduce urban sprawl and pollution by increasing green space in cities at the same time; cities are more than their urban form. So, bringing urban design solutions to make cities more sustainable will not work alone, it can only be part of the answer. In fact, as Neuman pointed out, instead of asking ourselves if urban form can produce sustainability, we should question whether the processes of building cities, living, consuming and producing in cities are actually sustainable.
Edel, D. (2019), Smart Forest City Cancun Design Is First 100% Renewable Circular Economy City, Available from: https://www-intelligentliving-co.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.intelligentliving.co/amp/smart-forest-city-cancun-first-renewable-circular-economy-city
 Stefano Boeri Architetti (2019), Smart Forest City Cancun, Press release available from: https://www.stefanoboeriarchitetti.net/en/urban-forestry/
Kucherova, A. and Narvaez, H. (2018), Urban Forest Revolution, E3S Web of Conferences 33, 01013, pp. 1-11.
Stefano Boeri Architetti (2019), Smart Forest City Cancun, Press release available from: https://www.stefanoboeriarchitetti.net/en/urban-forestry/
Crot, L. (2012), Planning for Sustainability in Non-democratic Polities: The Case of Masdar City, Urban Studies 50(13), pp. 2809–2825.
Cugurullo, F. (2018), Exposing smart cities and eco-cities: Frankenstein urbanism and the sustainability challenges of the experimental city, Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 2018, Vol. 50(1), pp. 73–92.
Neuman, M. (2005), The Compact City Fallacy, Journal of Planning Education and Research 25, pp. 11-26
MOTUS-E is the first Italian Association to bring together industries, the transport sector, the academia, consumer associations and opinion movements, to favor the transition towards a more sustainable model of mobility, in a context in which technologies and digital transformation play a crucial role.
LabGov’s strategic partner for various projects, MOTUS-E, has recently launched a call for papers and a best thesis award to prize the best research contribution in E-mobility. Both of the calls are open to everyone wishing to submit a paper, a research project or a thesis (discussed in years 2017-18-19), regardless of the country. Even papers already published in journals may be considered since there are no specific requirements on publication.
Universities, graduates, undergraduates, researchers and professionals are invited to present their own contribution about one of the clusters launched by MOTUS-E. The three selected papers and the winner of the Best Thesis Award will also have the opportunity to attend the MOTUS-E Event in Rome in 2020. The deadline for the submissions is 31st January and a Scientific Committee will evaluate the papers by 15th April. The papers can be submitted either in Italian or in English.