Thursday, May 03, 2007

France: African immigrant youths prefer Segolene Royal over Nicolas Sarkozy

Henri Astier:

In nearby Clichy, one of the most deprived towns in France's poorest department, Seine-Saint-Denis, turnout also topped 80%.

A year and a half ago, Clichy's teenagers launched a wave of riots that spread to banlieues (suburbs) across France.

Today, local youths - most of whom have French citizenship - are eager to air their grievances by casting ballots, not burning cars.

"Electing a president is important," says first-time voter Alain Djoudjou, 18.

He recalls that in the previous presidential election in 2002, far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen made it to the run-off largely through voter apathy. "Each votes counts," he says.

In Clichy - as in many other French suburbs - the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of Segolene Royal.

There are several reasons why the Socialist candidate appeals to banlieue youths.

Unlike her second-round conservative rival, Nicolas Sarkozy, she did bother to come to Clichy during the campaign. She is seen as reassuring and tolerant, and has promised to "listen to our suburbs where the fire is still smouldering". Her pledge to create subsidised jobs strikes a chord in areas where unemployment is sky-high.

Lofti Allag, 22, a plumbing worker from Clichy, is particularly attracted by Ms Royal's pledge to raise the minimum wage by 19%. "I'd feel great about that," he says.

But to most young men in the suburbs, Ms Royal's main attraction is that she is not Mr Sarkozy.

Journalist Nadir Dendoune, who noted the same unprecedented level of mobilisation near Saint-Denis north of Paris, says: "It was a vote against Sarkozy."

As interior minister, he antagonised many people by speaking about cleaning estates "with a pressure hose" and called delinquents "rabble" - a word widely used in the suburb but seen as offensive from a minister.

"I did not like his word," says Karim Hamdoune, an 18-year-old from Clichy, who feels that Mr Sarkozy "branded all Arab youths as criminals".

Europe's integration problems

Outcome of French elections will greatly affect EU constitution debate, Turkish membership


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

View My Stats