New York City (Mayor De Blasio above) together with Berlin, Paris, Rome and Sydney are governed by centre-left mayors, while the leaders of London, Tokyo, Madrid and Moscow pursue conservative/centre-right policies

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World mayors, their
parties and politics

By Andrew Stevens

28 July 2014: The narrative of the global pattern of urbanization is that we are said to live in the ‘urban century’ and the ‘age of the mayor’. Current affairs weeklies nod with approval at mayor-centred urban analysis by Richard Florida, Benjamin Barber and Bruce Katz – city rankings now enjoy the kind of media glow once reserved for corporate giants. But who gets to govern the world’s biggest cities? City Mayors examines the shifts in urban political allegiances and party machines over the past five years.

Table: Mayors, parties & politics

In City Mayors’ 2009 report (updated 2011) we assessed what political characteristics, if any, united the world’s biggest city governments. Though over the previous decade conservatives at national level had scored a number of electoral successes around the world, with many citizens identifying with messages on security, leaner government and lower taxes – our research however found that many of the world’s largest and most prominent cities were still governed by mayors from the left or centre-left. How then do mayors in 2014 stack up?

First, a few trends. In the early 2000s European capitals such as Berlin, Paris, Rome and London, with its newly-minted city mayoralty, were united in having mayors belonging to social democratic parties. In the case of London (Ken Livingstone), Paris (Bertrand Delanoë) and Rome (Walter Veltroni) all three were party veterans and ex-legislators at one time associated considered to have national ambitions. While most European social democratic parties largely underwent modernisation along ‘Third Way’ lines during this period, this quartet instead pursued business-friendly urban renaissance policies (derided in Italy as buonismo – lit. ‘goodism’) around beautification of the public realm (often funded by private finance) and the enhancement and promotion of nightlife and culture, as well as media-friendly personal branding around their city leadership (from ‘Red Ken’ to Wowereit’s “poor but sexy” Berlin).

Following the onset of the financial crisis, voters in London and Rome instead opted for Boris Johnson and Gianni Alemanno of the right. In Paris and Berlin incumbents clung on, with Delanoë (in office since 2001), successfully handing over to his deputy Anne Hidalgo in 2014. Both cities had in fact previously been associated with the centre-right, for instance Jacques Chirac’s Paris mayoralty between 1977 and 1995. In London’s 2012 mayoral race Livingstone failed to dislodge Conservative Boris Johnson from City Hall, who himself now harbours national leadership ambitions and has largely followed his own buonismo policies around taller buildings, bike hire and ‘iconic’ buses, detached from rising housing and commuting costs in the capital.

This time we include the full suite of Scandinavian capitals. With the exception of perpetually Social Democrat Copenhagen, the city leaders of Helsinki, Oslo and Stockholm all hail from nationally governing moderate conservative parties. While Michael Häupl has managed to govern Vienna as a Social Democrat since 1994, the right has remained in control of the Spanish capital Madrid since 1989. Socialists however remain in charge in Amsterdam and Brussels.

Outside of Europe we see consistent Democratic occupancy of the main US city halls, thanks no less to Michael Bloomberg’s exit from office at the end of his third term in 2013 – eighth-ranked San Diego is the only Republican-held city in the top 10, with only six in the top 50 American cities. In Brazil the left-wing Workers’ Party also regained their home turf São Paulo in 2013, while in Tokyo the more emollient communicator Yoichi Masuzoe was elected Governor in 2014, replacing the hardline nationalist Shintaro Ishihara who bowed out a year earlier.

Latin America capitals such as Bogotá and Buenos Aires are notable for being held by mayors belonging to opposition parties at national level. But not all mayors opt for party labels – the city leaders of Mexico City, Sydney and Athens are successful independents in their own right. And a number of omissions are present compared to the 2009 list – in Dhaka and Karachi, the governments of Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively have since both decided to abolish elected city leadership and place their cities in the hands of appointed administrators (as is Kuala Lumpur).

It would be wrong to assume that all city mayors reside the left/right spectrum, though in the 2014 table we show an increase in the left tally and a majority on the centre and left overall, not least on account of the end of the Bloomberg mayoralty in NYC, the Social Democrat takeover of Frankfurt in 2012 and the retaking of Seoul by a progressive mayor a year previously. The Green movement makes its first entry on the table in the form of Wellington’s Celia Wade-Brown, re-elected 2013 (though current Rio mayor Eduardo Paes was briefly a Green).

Despite the squeeze on their national parties in Europe, centrist mayors belonging to parties affiliated with the Liberal International remains constant, with Xavier Trias of Barcelona elected in 2011, and the addition of Casblanca, where Mohammed Sajid represents the Constitutional Union. Two new African cities on the list, Lagos and Nairobi, are also led by governors from liberal democratic parties. Patricia de Lille of Cape Town and Bangkok’s Governor Paribatra of the Democrat Party both remain. However, the Thai party is essentially centre-right and royalist (Paribatra is the son of a Thai prince).

The two Chinese cities listed, Beijing and Shanghai, are naturally led by a mayor of the ruling state Communist Party of China. Again, mayors whose party label defies international comparison include those of Jakarta (aligned to the ‘state religion’ Pancasila), Mumbai (Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist right-wing association), Tehran (the Islamic Society of Engineers, a conservative faction of the Islamic state) and Moscow, which remains in the hands of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia following the 2013 elections. Such labels can be ascribed to allegiance to the state among public officials through whatever form, usually a professional body or party associated with a national leader. Finally, there are centre-right populist parties with dynastic tendencies, such as that of Manila’s former president turned mayor (since 2013) Joseph Estrada (Force of the Filipino Masses) and Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) of prime minister and former mayor Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which holds both the capital Ankara and Istanbul.

Mayors, parties and politics
First elected
Party* & Politics
Boston Marty Walsh
Democratic (Centre)
Chicago Rahm Emmanuel
Democratic (Centre)
Los Angeles Eric Garcetti
Democratic (Centre)
New York City Bill de Blasio
Democratic (Centre-left)
San Francisco Edwin Lee
Democratic (Centre)
Toronto Rob Ford
Independent/Progressive Conservative (Right)
Vancouver Gregor Robertson
New Democratic Party (SI) (Centre-left)
Washington DC Vincent C. Gray
Democratic (Centre)
Bogotá Gustavo Petro
Progressivist Movement (Left)
Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri
Republican Proposal (IDU) (Centre-left)
Caracas Antonio Ledezma
Fearless Peoples Alliance (Centre-left)
Lima Susana Villarán
Social Force (Centre-left)
Mexico City Miguel Ángel Mancera
Independent (Centre-left)
Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes
Brazil Democratic Movement Party (Centre)
Santiago Carolina Tohá
Party for Democracy (SI/PA) (Centre-left)
São Paulo Fernando Haddad
Workers' Party (Left)
Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan
Labour Party (PA/SI) (Centre-left)
Athens Giorgos Kamanis
Independent (supported by PASOK and New Democracy) (Centre)
Barcelona Xavier Trias
Democratic Convergence (LI) (Centre)
Berlin Klaus Wowereit
Social Democratic Party (PA/SI) (Centre-left)
Brussels Yvan Mayeur
Socialist Party (SI/PA) (Centre-left)
Copenhagen Frank Jensen
Social Democrats (SI/PA) (Centre-left)
Frankfurt Peter Feldmann
Social Democratic Party (PA/SI) (Centre-left)
Helsinki Jussi Pajunen
National Coalition Party (IDU) (Centre-right)
Liverpool Joe Anderson
Labour Party (Centre-left) (PA/SI)
London Boris Johnson
Conservative (IDU) (Centre-right)
Madrid Ana Botella
People's Party (CDI/IDU) (Centre-right)
Milan Giuliano Pisapia
Left Ecology Freedom / Democratic Party (Left)
Moscow Sergey Sobyanin
United Russia (Centre-right)
Munich Dieter Reiter
Social Democratic Party (PA/SI) (Centre-left)
Oslo Stian Berger
Conservative Party (IDU) (Centre-right)
Paris Anne Hidalgo
Socialist Party (PA/SI) (Centre-left)
Rome Ignazio Marino
Democratic Party (PA) (Centre-left)
Stockholm Sten Nordin
Moderate Party (IDU) (Centre-right)
Vienna Michael Häupl
Social Democratic Party (SI/PA) (Centre-left)
Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz
Civic Platform (Centre-right)
Zurich Corine Mauch
Social Democratic Party (SI) (Centre-left)
Auckland Len Brown
Independent (Centre-left)
Melbourne Robert Doyle
Liberal Party (Centre-right)
Sydney Clover Moore
Independent (Centre)
Wellington Celia Wade-Brown
Green Party (GG) (Centre-left)
Ankara Melih Gökçek
Justice and Development Party (Centre-right)
Bangkok Sukhumbhand Paribatra
Democrat Party (Centre)
Beijing Wang Anshun
Communist Party of China
Delhi NCT Vacant
Istanbul Kadir Topba_
Justice and Development Party (Centre-right)
Jakarta Joko Widodo**
Indonesian Democratic Party - Struggle (Centre)
Manila Joseph Estrada
Force of the Filipino Masses (Centre-right)
Mumbai Sunil Prabhu
Shiv Sena
Seoul Park Won-soon
New Politics Alliance for Democracy (Centre)
Shanghai Yang Xiong
Communist Party of China
Taipei Hau Lung-pin
Chinese Nationalist Party (IDU) (Centre-right)
Tokyo Yoichi Masuzoe
Independent (supported by Liberal Democrat Party and New Komeito) (Centre-right)
Cape Town Patricia de Lille
Democratic Alliance (LI) (Centre)
Casablanca Mohammed Sajid
Constitutional Union (LI) (Centre)
Johannesburg Parks Tau
African National Congress (SI/PA) (Centre-left)
Lagos Babutunde Fashola
All Progressives Congress (Centre)
Nairobi Evans Kidero
Orange Democratic Movement (Centre)

*International associations
Alliance of Democrats (AD) – centrist, moderate parties
Centrist Democrat International (CDI) – centre right and Christian democrat parties
International Democrat Union (IDU) – conservative parties
Liberal International (LI) – centrist and official liberal parties
Progressive Alliance (PA) and Socialist International (SI) – socialist and social democratic parties

**Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo is President-elect of Indonesia and will take up his new post in October 2014

World Mayor 2014
26 mayors from across the world are competing for the 2014 World Mayor Prize

Support the Mayor you believe should win the 2014 World Mayor Prize
Mayor Naheed Nenshi
Calgary, Canada
Mayor Annise Parker
Houston, USA
Mayor Mick Cornett
Oklahoma City, USA
Mayor Kevin Johnson
Sacramento, USA

Mayor Marcio Lacerda
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Mayor Álvaro Arzú
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Mayor Carlos Eduardo Correa
Monteria, Colombia
Mayor Carlos Ocariz
Sucre, Venezuela

Mayor Daniel Termont
Ghent, Belgium
Mayor Alain Juppé
Bordeaux, France
Mayor Albrecht Schröter
Jena, Germany
Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, Thessaloniki, Greece
Mayor Giusy Nicolini, Lampedusa, Italy
Mayor Nils Usakovs
Riga, Latvia
Mayor José Ramón García, Ribera de Arriba, Spain
Mayor George Ferguson, Bristol, UK
Mayor Joe Anderson, Liverpool, UK

Mayor Tri Rismaharini (Risma)
Surabaya, Indonesia
Mayor Yona Yahav
Haifa, Israel
Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog
Iloilo City, Philippines
Mayor Hani Mohammad Aburas
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Mayor Park Won-soon
Seoul, South Korea
Mayor Aziz Kocaoglu
Izmir, Turkey

Mayor Clover Moore
Sydney, Australia

Mayor Jacqueline
Moustache, Victoria, Seychelles
Mayor Thabo Manyoni
Mangaung, South Africa

Previous winners
and runners-up

Previous winners and runners-up include the mayors of Bilbao, Perth, Mexico City, Oklahoma City, Cape Town, Zurich, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Athens, Mississauga and Tirana. The World Mayor Project aims to show what outstanding mayors can achieve and raise their profiles nationally and internationally. MORE