Black jacket and dark blouse dotted with golden flowers, jeans and heels. On this evening of October 2019, on a small raised stage in the middle of a refurbished Mauduit salon, Johanna Rolland looks like a rock star. Microphone in hand, without notes, irradiated with pink by overpowered spots, she comes and goes on her perch, surrounded by 360 ° activists from Nantes who have come to listen to her for the launch of her municipal campaign. The native of Vertou (44) plays her political future. Single. Without the tutelary figure of Jean-Marc Ayrault, the man who reigned supreme over the city of the Dukes of Brittany for nearly twenty-five years.
Mayor since 2014, the young elected has done quite well even if the Loire remains dangerous. With heavy files like Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport, migrants, a rise in crime against a background of exploding drug trafficking, the failure of the Yellopark at FC Nantes or even death of young Steve, drowned during a music festival. A case which is worth to him today to be placed under the assisted witness status.
During the June 2020 municipal, she wins easily, with nearly 60% of the vote, in a union with the Greens. Enough, at the age of 40, to play her own score and destroy the image of “heiress”. “She is thoughtful and has real political know-how”, analyzes Jean-Marc Ayrault, who recruited her in 2005, when, as a deputy, he was looking for a parliamentary attaché “with a nose in politics and popular sensitivity. “
2008 marked the beginning of his ascent: assistant in charge of education and youth in the Ayrault IV municipal council. Then appointment as first assistant, four years later, when he joined Matignon. “Johanna Rolland ticked several boxes: renewal, youth, a woman, experience … She has shown that she can manage complicated things”, testifies the former Prime Minister, who still advises her sometimes. But without being intrusive, he insists.
“The faults of Jean-Marc Ayrault without the qualities”
Anne Hidalgo Campaign Director, President of France Urbaine, spokesperson for the PS… In recent months, signs of its national rise to power have been accumulating. Not enough to amaze his opposition. Julien Bainvel, elected LR of Nantes retains from her an elected official who decides too often alone. What confirms a cacique of the local left. “Johanna Rolland? It is the faults of Jean-Marc Ayrault without the qualities. He was driven by a strong ambition for his city, but he wanted everything to be under control, nothing to be left to chance: the PS, the cabinet… What we called the Ayrault system. Johanna Rolland suggests that will change, but in fact, not at all. But it is a proof of intelligence, defends it Philippe Grosvalet, ex-president (PS) of the departmental council. “Everything is prepared, calculated, measured. “
Is she cold and distant, as they say? “She is reserved but she worked on it”, concedes this close. “For her, it is first and foremost the background before the construction of a“ storytelling ”,” adds her friend Nathalie Appéré, PS mayor of Rennes and general secretary of France Urbaine.
On the political line, Johanna Rolland today highlights the “social-ecology. “More seller than a faded PS. However, in 2017, some saw her already joining Macronie. On economic issues, the gap is not huge. Jean-Yves Le Drian had then played the go-between, offering him a large Ministry of Education and Ecological Transition. In vain. Without being a fanatic of the party, the PS remains its compass.
And then ? It doesn’t matter if the chances of his candidate Hidalgo remain low to the ground, like the polls. Because many see in this wife of a school teacher and mother of two children a future minister. In 2022, or later. “She has the skills and the energy,” said Nathalie Appéré. “She is seeking to position herself because the PS can still bounce back with the closing of the Macron parenthesis, in 2027”, believes this elected official who has worked closely with her. Everything will depend on the context. In politics as in running, which she enjoys, Johanna Rolland knows that to go far, you have to spare your horse.
Johanna Rolland in brief
May 11, 1979: birth in Nantes (44)
1997-2002: hypokhâgne-khâgne at Guist’hau high school, IEP Lille then master in Grenoble
2002-2005: political service of the city of Le Creusot (Saône-et-Loire)
Since 2014: mayor of Nantes and president of the metropolis
Since 2020: President of France Urbaine
2021: spokesperson for the PS then campaign director for Anne Hidalgo