France’s ‘red belt’ in a quandary over presidential run-off
By Maria D. Valderrama and Jose Manzaneque
Vitry-sur-Seine/Aubervilliers, France, Apr 22 (EFE).- In Paris suburbs, traditionally known as France’s red belt owing to the number of Communist mayors the region has had, voters face a final choice on who to vote for in the presidential clash between incumbent president Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
In Vitry-sur-Seine, a city of 90,000 inhabitants on the outskirts of the capital, disappointment reigns after the left was disqualified in the first presidential ballot.
Leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon tipped votes in his favor in the city with 30.24% of the ballot and he has said courting his constituents will be key for whoever ends up in the Elysee.
“Some citizens will find it very difficult to decide on Sunday. For five years there has been a policy that has harmed them a lot, that is why they cannot vote for Macron, and that could make Le Pen win,” Communist mayor Pierre Bell-Lloch tells Efe.
From his bright office, Bell-Lloch says he will be voting strategically for Macron, to try and prevent a Le Pen victory.
“If you don’t listen to the people for five years, you can’t go later to ask for their vote when you are in danger,” Bell-Lloch laments.
Mutterings in the town, which is under a 15-minute train ride from Paris, have described the presidential race as a contest between “rural xenophobia and big companies and banks.”
AN END TO FRANCE’S CORDON SANITAIRE?
Hervé Bouhnik gave his vote to ruralist Jean Lassalle and has now decided to abstain because he does not feel the current candidates represent him.
“Choosing between Marine and Macron seems complicated to me,” says the Jew of Tunisian origin.
He adds that France’s so-called ‘cordon sanitaire’, a French political strategy that isolates certain extremist political parties by refusing to cooperate with them, will no longer serve its purpose.
“Le Pen is different from her father,” Bouhnik says.
Gonzalo Guzmán, a French-Mexican voter for Mélenchon, has decided together with his wife and son to vote for Macron.
“I had told myself I would abstain if they were both in the run-off again, but in light of the situation I will vote for Macron,” he says.
The polls give Macron a 12-point lead over Le Pen, but analysts agree that a high abstention level could favor the far-right.
In another town north of Paris, Aubervilliers, Mélenchon won 60% of the votes in the first round.
Locals seem increasingly apathetic ahead of the ballot and, on April 10, 36.51% of voters abstained.
Electoral posters featuring Macron, who clinched 16.37 % of the vote in Aubervilliers, and Le Pen, who secured 9.09%, in the town’s square have been vandalized.