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Why Some Minorities in France Vote for the Far-Right Political Party Front National

Written by Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Lucia Wheller On 13 June 2014 @ 18:39 pm | 5 Comments

In Citizen Media, Ethnicity & Race, France, Freedom of Speech, French, Ideas, Middle East & North Africa, Migration & Immigration, Politics, Protest, Religion, Sub-Saharan Africa, Weblog, Women & Gender

Affiche de campagne du Front National en 2007 - Domaine public

“The right and the left broke everything!” Front National 2007 election campaign poster trying to appeal to minority voters. Public domain.

[All links lead to French-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

When France's Eurosceptic right-wing Front National (FN) party topped the country's polls in last month's European elections, it had its hardline immigration stance to thank. A whopping 91 percent of people who voted for the Marine Le Pen-led FN said immigration was the most decisive factor, according to an opinion poll carried out by the French Institute of Public Opinion [1].

It may come as a surprise then, that some of their 25 percent of votes came from minorities, the very target of some of their proposed policies.

France prohibits any public statistics based on race or ethnicity, so a definite report on voting according to ethnicity isn't available. But for instance, in the French West Indies, where the majority of the population is black, the Front National came third in Guadeloupe [2] and second in Saint-Martin/Saint-Bathélemy [3]. In Reunion Island [4] in the Indian Ocean, they came fourth.  

Christophe, who lives in Poitiers, France, wrote in Le Plus Nouvel Obs blog that he used to vote for the left-wing party, but voted for the FN this time around [5]:

J'ai traversé une période de rejet du politique, il y a environ 10 ans. J'ai arrêté de voter, je n'en voyais plus l'utilité. Je n'accordais plus aucune confiance aux hommes politiques ou à leurs actions. Avec Marine Le Pen, j'ai recommencé à y croire [..]  J'en ai marre que nous, électeurs du FN, on se fasse traiter de facho ou de raciste [..]  Je ne suis pas raciste, je suis nationaliste.

About 10 years ago I went through a period when I just rejected everything to do with politics. I did not vote because I did not see the use of it anymore. I no longer trusted any politicians or their actions. With Marine Le Pen, I started to believe again [..] I'm fed up of FN voters being pegged as fascist or racist [..] I'm not racist, I am a nationalist.

The rise of the FN seems to stem from continued disenchantment with the declining economic status of France and the increasingly precarious situation of its lower class. An interactive infographic [6] via Le Nouvel Observateur on the results of the 2014 European elections in France shows that FN came out on top for people earning less than 3,000 euros (about 4,500 US dollars) per month. 

On seneweb.com, “Diop” expressed gratitude [7] for the opportunities given to his father in France and warned about the country's economy:

Quand mon père est arrivé, il a débarqué du Galsen sans un franc en poche. Car il n'y avait pas l'euro à l'époque mais le franc français et il y avait du travail, il a pu faire sa vie, acheter une maison et les prix étaient beaucoup moins cher. Toute la merde actuelle c'est la faute à l'Europe. La France a été dans le top 3 mondial en continue pendant 600 ans avant l'intégration européenne puis l'euro. Aujourd'hui nous sommes 5ème et dans 50 ans d'après les prévision nous serons 8ème seulement. Il faut savoir dire stop quand on le peut encore.

My father first arrived from Senegal without a franc in his pocket. As the euro didn't exist in those days, the currency was the French franc and there was work, he was able to make a life for himself, buy a house and prices were much lower. The shit we're in right now is Europe's fault. France was one of the top three global powers for 600 years until they joined the European Union and adopted the euro. Today we've been relegated to fifth place and according to predictions we'll be eighth in 50 years time. We have to know when to say “stop” while we still can.

Nadir, who was born outside France, added in the Observatory of the Extremes in the Europe blog that he voted for the Front National because he felt they were more “real” [8] :

Le FN, c’est des gens comme nous. Ils sont proches de nous. Ils nous comprennent. Ils n’ont pas fait de grandes études.

The FN is made up of people like us. They are close to us. They understand us. They have not attended elite universities.

‘Why are they voting against themselves?’

This isn't the first time the FN has drawn votes from people of migrant origins. In this article taken from Egalité et reconciliation (Equality and reconciliation, via the Swiss newspaper Le Matin [9]), a group of girlfriends of North African origin explain why they became members of FN in 2011 prior to the 2012 presidential elections. Zoubida, about 50, wears a veil; she and Kheira share the same outlook [10] on FN: 

Elles ne veulent plus, non plus, d’une immigration qui, selon elles, « profite » des aides sociales, qui applique la formule en trois points : « Les mamans sont les porteuses, la rue éduque, les allocations paient. »

Zoubida, assistante maternelle, gagne 1500 euros par mois. Son loyer s’élève à 505 euros. Elle n’en paie que 200 grâce à l’aide personnalisée au logement. « J’en ai ras-le-bol de voir des étrangers obtenir un logement HLM trois ou quatre ans seulement après leur arrivée en France », s’insurge-t-elle.

They've had enough of this type of immigration which, according to them, “capitalises” on state benefits and which applies the following modus operandi: “women have babies, the streets bring up the children and state benefits bring in the paycheck.” 

Zoubida, a nursery assistant, earns 1,500 euros per month. Her rent has increased to 505 euros although she only pays 200 thanks to housing aid. “I'm fed up of seeing foreigners getting subsidized housing only three or four years after arriving in France,” she protests.

If the FN got its way, the country would have much tougher immigration policies. The blog mediapart.fr [11] summarised the key features of FN's manifesto [12]:

Parmi les mesures les plus extrémistes, elle veut remettre en cause le droit d’asile, mettre fin à la libre circulation au sein de l’Union européenne, interdire les régularisations des sans-papiers, les expulser «systématiquement» et empêcher «les manifestations de clandestins ou de soutien aux clandestins», rétablir la double peine, supprimer l’aide médicale d’État, réduire la durée des cartes de séjour, revenir sur le droit du sol et réformer le code de la nationalité, faire du «racisme anti-Français comme motivation d’un crime ou d’un délit (…) une circonstance aggravante» qui «alourdira la peine encourue» et subordonner les aides au développement à la limitation des «flux» migratoires, voire à leur arrêt… en ce qui concerne les «pays du Maghreb».Selon un sondage IFOP pour des médias français, 80 à 82 pour cent des électeurs du FN ont justifié leur choix par leurs sentiments à l'égard de l'immigration.

Amongst their most extreme measures, they want to review the right to asylum, put a stop to free movement within the European Union, ban the regularisation of illegal immigrants, deport them “systematically” and stop “their demonstrations or demonstrations in support of them”. They also want to restore a double penalty system for immigrants, stop their state medical assistance, reduce the duration of residency permits, reverse jus soli laws and reform the Nationality Act. Furthermore, anti-French racism as the motivation of a crime would be considered an aggravating circumstance and therefore the crime would carry a higher sentence. The FN would also like to make development aid to North Africa conditional on reducing or putting a cap on immigration to France. According to an IFOP opinion poll for the French media, 80-82% of FN voters justified their choice based on their feelings towards immigration.

What explanation is behind these unlikely voters? Writer Maloud Akkouche explains this phenomenon on the blog blogs.rue89.nouvelobs.com [13] by suggesting that voting for a party like the FN lets people feel like they are rejecting their association with undesirable populations, which in the minds of many French people fit the classic profile of Arab, African or Muslim immigrants:

Des citoyens issus de l’immigration aussi radicaux que les identitaires. De plus en plus, des Maghrébins ou Africains d’origine affichent leur vote FN. Pourquoi ce vote contre soi ?

Peut-être parce que leur reflet dans le miroir ressemble à celui de quelques lascars pourrissant la vie des quartiers populaires, ou aux profils de certains barbus-intégristes « bouffeurs » de laïcité. Une laïcité à ne jamais brader ! Pas facile de se raser ou se maquiller chaque matin devant un visage aussi négatif, pointé du doigt en permanence.

Comment échapper à cette culpabilité ? Prouver que, malgré la ressemblance physique, ils ne brûlent pas de voitures, ne dealent pas, ne lapident pas des femmes, ne portent pas de ceinture d’explosifs, ne pissent pas dans l’ascenseur… Bref, qu’ils n’emmerdent pas leurs contemporains. Une bagarre quotidienne usant même les plus intelligents.

Citizens of migrant origin are just as prone to radicalism as certain ‘born and bred French people'. More and more North and Sub-Saharan Africans are voting for the FN. So why are they voting against themselves?

Perhaps because their reflection in the mirror resembles those shady characters responsible for the decay of low-income suburbs, or the profile of certain bearded fundamentalists who gnaw away at French secularism; a kind of secularism that the French will never give up. It's not easy to shave or put makeup on every morning when your face is the constant victim of negative finger-pointing. 

How can they escape this sense of blame? By proving that despite their physical appearance, they don't burn cars, deal drugs, stone women, strap bombs to themselves or piss in the lift… In other words, they don't bother their neighbours; a daily struggle which exhausts even the most well-educated people. 

There are other reasons for voting for the FN, particularly for voters originating from countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. Ousmane was persuaded to vote for the FN during the 2014 European elections to express his rejection of homosexuality and globalisation. He claimed [14] that:

J'ai voté pour toi Marine! Félicitations! Tous ces européiste, lobbyistes pro-gay, mondialistes ont perdu!

I voted for Marine! Congratulations! All these pro-Europe, pro-gay lobbyists and internationalists lost big time!

Commenting on a post on Alexandre Thomas blog [15] dealing with why sons and daughters of immigrants would vote for the FN, Narcisse, who was born in Senegal, wrote [16]:

Quelle que soit l'origine de ce vote dit de sanction, l'important c'est surtout de faire comprendre aux fils d'immigrés que le FN ne veut pas d'eux en France et qu'en votant pour eux ils donnent du pouvoir à ceux qui ont établi leur notoriété sur le rejet des différences.

Whatever the reasons for their votes were, the key is most importantly to make second-generation immigrants aware that the FN does not want them in France and by voting for them, they're giving power to those who have built their reputation on rejecting difference.

Pape Diouf was born in Chad, grew up in Dakar in Senegal, and has lived in the southern French city of Marseille since he was 18. He was the president of a first division football club and was in charge of the club of his adoptive city for many years. He explains why he can understand the voting decision of members of the African diaspora and Arab and Muslim communities during the municipal elections in Marseille [17] in March 2014 (in which he was a candidate). He proposed a solution: 

Ainsi, lors de mes différentes descentes sur le terrain, j'ai rencontré des gens admirables, qui s'occupent bénévolement des jeunes et des femmes isolées et sans qui la grogne sociale aurait fait exploser tous les couvercles sociaux. Pour eux, la politique politicienne est la cause et l'explication de leur ralliement extrême au FN. Paradoxalement, beaucoup d'électeurs du FN sont d'origine du Maghreb et d'Afrique Noire. Un geste désespéré dans lequel on ne saurait souscrire….
Ma stratégie à moi, pour endiguer l'avancée du Front national, serait d'aider ces personnes en difficultés à sortir du mal logement, à mieux éduquer leurs enfants, à mieux les former aux métiers d'aujourd'hui et de demain, à mettre en place une vraie sécurité sanitaire ou à rendre les transports beaucoup plus accessibles, etc.

During my visits to the community, I found admirable people who voluntarily take care of young people and women who have been cut off. Without these volunteers, discontent in society would reach its limit. For them, party politics is the cause and reason for their radical support for FN. Paradoxically, many FN voters are of North- or Sub-Saharan African descent; a desperate act that is difficult to understand. To halt the growing support for FN, my own strategy would be to help people who are struggling to get out of poor housing, provide better education for their children and better training for present and future jobs, establish a real public health service or improve access to public transport, etc. 


Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org

URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/06/13/why-minorities-in-france-vote-for-far-right-party-front-national/

URLs in this post:

[1] French Institute of Public Opinion: http://sitamnesty.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/sondage_ifop_jour_vote_profil_electeurs_elections_europeennes25mai2014.pdf

[2] Guadeloupe: http://www.francetvinfo.fr/elections/resultats/guadeloupe_971/

[3] Saint-Martin/Saint-Bathélemy: http://www.francetvinfo.fr/elections/resultats/saint-martin-saint-barthelemy_977/

[4] Reunion Island: http://www.francetvinfo.fr/elections/resultats/la-reunion_974/

[5] voted for the FN this time around: http://leplus.nouvelobs.com/contribution/1206555-j-ai-vote-fn-aux-europeennes-je-viens-d-une-famille-ps-aujourd-hui-on-vote-tous-le-pen.html

[6] interactive infographic: http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/elections-europeennes-2014/20140526.OBS8488/europeennes-qui-a-vote-fn.html

[7] seneweb.com, “Diop” expressed gratitude: http://www.sencms.com/news/commentaire/europeennes-2014-la-deferlante-fn_n_126762_c_3249567.html

[8] he felt they were more “real”: http://observatoiredesextremes.com/?p=779#_edn1

[9] Le Matin: http://www.lematin.ch/actu/monde/arabes-deviennent-membres-front-national-413012/

[10] share the same outlook: http://www.egaliteetreconciliation.fr/Meme-les-Arabes-deviennent-membres-du-Front-national-6935.html

[11] mediapart.fr: http://www.mediapart.fr/journal/france/080212/7-le-fn-et-limmigration

[12] manifesto: http://www.frontnational.com/le-projet-de-marine-le-pen/

[13] blogs.rue89.nouvelobs.com: http://blogs.rue89.nouvelobs.com/mouloud-akkouche/2013/03/30/potes-en-83-ils-votent-fn-en-2013-229901

[14] He claimed: http://www.seneweb.com/news/commentaire/europeennes-2014-la-deferlante-fn_n_126762_c_3249471.html

[15] Alexandre Thomas blog: http://alexandre-thomas-forum.blogs.nouvelobs.com

[16] wrote: http://alexandre-thomas-forum.blogs.nouvelobs.com/archive/2014/03/30/insolite-les-fils-d-immigres-voteraient-pour-le-front-nation-527102.html

[17] municipal elections in Marseille: http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2014/03/23/elections-municipales-pape-diouf-fraudes-marseille_n_5017923.html

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