The Muslim vote in post-Charlie France

'Many turned down the gauche. But abstention top party'

24 March, 10:38

    (ANSAmed) - PARIS, MARCH 24 - In presidential elections held in 2012, most Muslim voters in France cast their ballots for the Socialist party, overwhelmingly backing left-wing candidate Francois Hollande - with 86% of the vote. Today, however, the French Muslim community gave the gauche the cold shoulder, turning instead to the center-right led by the UMP of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and, most of all, the centrist party UDI led by Jean-Christophe Lagarde, who recently said he was in favor of the Islamic veil in universities.

    Nevertheless, the 'party of abstentionism' also won among Muslims in France, mostly in the banlieues, where very few chose to vote in the first round of provincial elections. ''I always voted for the Socialist (party), ever since I acquired the right to vote, but I will choose the right for the first time'', said Abdallah, a 50-year-old of Moroccan descent. He added: ''in the next round of voting, my choice will fall on the centrists of Modem or UDI, at least they were not too tainted by scandals and frauds''.

    In a France that bans statistical surveys based on ethnic groups, understanding how Muslim voters cast and will be casting their ballots after jihadist attacks at the beginning of January is not easy. However, after local elections which saw the victory of moderate conservatives followed by the Front National - and the defeat of the Socialist majority - many agree in saying that Muslims have abandoned the gauche.

    The reasons cannot only be explained in the Socialist government's inability to give effective responses to the economic crisis and unemployment. One of the reasons is also that a part of France, after the Charlie attacks, condemned with force terror but was too shy in making a distinction between Islam and terrorism. Then, there were social reforms, like gay marriage, which ''divided the electorate historically tied to traditional values, like the Muslim one'', Nagib Azergui, founder of the Union of Democratic Muslims of France (UDMF), told ANSA. Or the particularly harsh positions expressed by Premier Manuel Valls against the Islamic veil. The head of the Socialist government called it ''an essential fight for our country'' a few weeks ago, after personally intervening over the past few months against Dieudonné, the controversial comedian known for his strongly anti-Semitic jokes - something that raised the solidarity of many Muslims. Solidarity was expressed more in the name of the freedom of expression that is so dear to the République, than for the jokes themselves. ''Valls represented the end of the love story between Muslims and the gauche'', stressed Azergu, adding that many Muslims don't know who to vote for today. Also because ''Sarkozy and Valls use the same words as Marine Le Pen. It is a real problem for the democracy of this country, which the government does not want to see''.

    As the second religion in France, Islam represents about 5% of the electorate, according to the Cevipof research center.

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