Two Women Seek to be France's President

PARIS (AP) -- Two politicians have formally declared their intentions to seek to become France's first female president in next year's spring election.

National Rally's Marine Le Pen and Paris' Socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, both officially launched their campaigns Sunday in what were widely expected moves.

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.

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." She made 26-year-old Jordan Bardella the acting head of the party as she prepares her campaign.

They join the burgeoning list of challengers to centrist incumbent Emmanuel Macron.

Macron, 43, has not yet announced a run but is expected to do so. Launching a candidacy in France is a necessary formality for each successive presidential election.

The poll is expected to boil down to a duel between Le Pen and Macron, as it was last time in 2017.