France before the election: think left – but who to vote for?

Europe Magazine

Status: 04/24/2022 05:04

In the Paris suburb of Bondy, the left Mélenchon had done particularly well in the first ballot. But what are his voters doing now? Grinding your teeth to vote for Macron – or for Le Pen? Or not choose at all?

By Sabine Bohland, ARD Studio Paris

“Thank you,” says the small poster with the portrait of the presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon – “In Bondy you voted 53.55 percent for Mélenchon.” However, this sensational result was of no use to the left-wing candidate. Almost two weeks ago, he was third, just behind right-wing populist Marine Le Pen, and did not make it into the runoff.

This Sunday she will decide whether France will continue on its pro-European path under President Emmanuel Macron or whether a woman will be at the helm for the first time.

Persistent fear of relegation

One who had hoped for a change in French politics from the leftist Mélenchon is Aurélie Jean-Mouchoux. Together with two colleagues, she set up her fruit and vegetable stand in the square opposite Bondy’s unattractive town hall. The 36-year-old grew up here in the north-east of Paris, a so-called banlieue.

The banlieues in the north and east of the capital were originally modern settlements for industrial workers, but over the decades have become more and more synonymous with social decline. Aurélie knows the problems here. “People are not doing well at the moment, everything is getting more expensive. Sometimes I have customers who can only afford a carrot and a tomato,” she says.

And her own situation is financially strained right now. “The more expensive we have to buy our goods, the more expensive we have to sell them,” she explains. “And the more expensive the fruit and vegetables are, the less people buy.”

Disappointment among voters after the defeat of the left-wing candidate in the presidential election

Sabine Bohland, ARD Paris, Europamagazin, April 24, 2022

Bondy’s own atmosphere

Nevertheless, Aurélie likes to be a market woman. After all, you always have to eat, and she comes into contact with very different people at the various markets around Paris. In Bondy there is a mixture of long-established French people, from African families, and young people with North African roots.

Everyone meets at the “Ramadan market”, at Aurélies fruit and vegetables and at the snack stands around it. Officially the market, which takes place only now in April during Ramadan, is called “Marché des Saveurs” – Market of Flavors. France is a secular state.

At her market stall, Aurélie Jean-Mouchoux hears what the French are missing every day. However, she does not want to take part in the runoff.

Image: Sabine Bohland / ARD Studio Paris

No candidate convinces

One thing the politically interested Aurélie noticed more and more: disenchantment with politics. President Macron is perceived as arrogant and rude to ordinary people – and in neighborhoods like Bondy, most feel a slap in the face for someone like Le Pen and her anti-immigrant programme.

Miloud Belhadjtahar runs a stand with Moroccan specialties in the small market – right next to Aurélie’s display. Now, during Ramadan, he sells freshly baked nutritious snacks to break the fast in the evening. “France is our country,” he says, “and it doesn’t matter whether we have Chinese, Arabic or African roots: we are all the same, we are shaping France together. We don’t want anyone who is racist to rule our country.”

No posters – and yet encouragement

It is striking that there are no Marine Le Pen election posters in Bondy. Have they been removed or not hung up in the first place? However, there are also people on the market who would like to see Le Pen in the Elysée Palace. There is the elderly gentleman in the hat, who says that he has lived in France since 1961 but has never acquired citizenship. “If I could choose, I would choose Le Pen.” When asked astonished, he describes how insecure he feels because of the large number of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

And another passer-by, on her way to the afternoon Scrabble rendezvous, would like a woman to be the head of France. That’s why she chooses Le Pen. She doesn’t think her program is bad either, she adds.

The traditional slogan hangs above Bondy Town Hall: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. It is not only in France that citizens are wondering how these words will be interpreted after the run-off election.

Image: Sabine Bohland / ARD Studio Paris

Are the banlieues also threatened with gentrification?

lunchtime. Aurélie leaves her market stall to take Kiwi for a walk. Kiwi is a three month old Staffordshire Terrier. He lives with his mistress, three boys aged 11 and 12 and Aurélie’s partner in a 60 square meter apartment. Monthly rent: 950 euros. “And we’re very lucky there,” says Aurélie. It is a nice area and she can get the apartment cheaper because of good connections.

She fears that the Paris suburbs will soon become unaffordable for French people with average salaries: “The banlieue will soon be inhabited by the people from Paris and the people from the banlieue will be pushed further out,” she says.

Further out means: even poorer connections to the capital, unemployment, lack of prospects. Many areas in the sometimes notorious banlieue are already a symbol of being left behind, of crime, of resentment.

Fruit and vegetables – too expensive for some

Aurélie is back at the market stall, chatting with her customers, joking, bargaining, giving away an apple here, a pineapple there. She has observed another development: More and more people collect the rubbish at the end of the market day because they cannot afford fruit and vegetables.

This is exactly why she chose Mélenchon – because she wants a fairer France. One where the salaries for rent and food are sufficient and you can even save a little. Her own dream is a cottage in Burgundy. Sometime after the kids have finished school.

Then don’t choose

And who does she vote for on Sunday? Aurélie Jean-Mouchoux shrugs. “I’m not going to vote,” she says. She just couldn’t bring herself to vote for Macron, who had disappointed her for five years. Le Pen is out of the question for her anyway.

And if the right-wing populist wins? “No,” says Aurélie, “that won’t happen. It just can’t happen. I trust my compatriots. We were all taught the same values ​​at school.”

Opposite Aurélie’s fruit stand, on the gray concrete town hall of Bondy, it says in large letters: “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” – freedom, equality, fraternity. And the French flag flies above it. At half mast. But that’s probably just a coincidence.

You can see this and other reports in Europamagazin – on Sunday at 12.45 p.m. in the first.

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