Paris is set to get its first female mayor after a woman romped to victory Monday during a primary election to become the conservative candidate in a mayoral race next year. She's expected to run against the Socialist candidate, who is also a woman.
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, an up-and-coming figure on the French political scene who is often referred to by her initials NKM, served as Nicolas Sarkozy's spokeswoman during his re-election campaign last year.
The 40 year-old, who also served as Sarkozy's environment minister, won the candidacy for the Union for a Popular Movement Party with 58 percent of the vote despite a late challenge by right-wing opponents angered by her abstention in a recent parliamentary vote on gay marriage.
Her Socialist Party rival in the race will be Anne Hidalgo.
A moderate who is known as a straight talker, Kosciusko-Morizet has remained in the center as the UMP has moved to the right. France24 reports that she's known for being tough on far-right policies and has accepted progressive reforms such as the gay marriage law.
Her closest primary rivals were Jean-Francois Legaret with 20 percent and Pierre-Yves Bournazel with 11 percent.
However, Hidalgo, another rising star, is the current favorite to win next year. The daughter of Spanish immigrants who moved to France when she was a toddler, the 53-year-old has been deputy to the popular current mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, since 2011.
Given both candidates' relative youth and high national profiles, speculation is already mounting over the prospects the winner will follow former Mayor Jacques Chirac by using City Hall as a springboard to the presidency.
Paul Ames reported from Brussels.