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Insecurity, the primary motivation for voting for the RN

Photo: Nicolas Tucat Agence France-Presse Police officers patrolled near a drug sales point in downtown Marseille on March 21, two days after the French president's visit,

Étienne Paré in Marseille

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  • Europe

France is not just a postcard everywhere. In the outlying districts of Marseille, the beauty of the Provençal landscape is completely masked by these immense housing buildings hastily built during the Trente Glorieuses to accommodate workers from the countryside and the countries of Southern Europe. Over the years, immigrants from the Maghreb, mainly Algeria, have also settled there. Several long-time residents, overcome by a great feeling of insecurity, say they no longer feel at home there. Many of them now rely on the National Rally (RN).

“It’s changed a lot here. Going out at night has become complicated. We no longer feel safe,” confides Marguerite Lindi before jumping on the bus that will take her to the city center.

This daughter of Italian immigrants never thought she would one day join the far right. But, for the first time in her life last Sunday, she slipped a ballot into the ballot box for the National Rally in the hope of sending a clear message to the Parisian elites.

Les Caillols, the neighborhood where she lives in the 12th arrondissement, is not a particularly dangerous place in broad daylight. You can walk there very well without fearing anything. Here, at first glance, there are no raids or crowds of homeless people in distress, like in certain areas of Montreal.

The problems lie elsewhere, however. As evidenced by the carcass of a completely burnt-out car lying in front of a council estate. “Welcome to Marseille,” Jean-Paul Ricard says ironically in his sing-song accent as he sees this pile of debris in the middle of the street in the distance while he walks his dog.

According to the experience of this retired police officer, it could be a car that was stolen to be used in a burglary and then set on fire to leave no trace. After all, the Marseille region is the place in France with the highest burglary rate. The same goes for vehicle thefts. The Phocaean city has also always been a hub for drug trafficking due to its status as a port city.

According to Jean-Paul Ricard, there is a serious change to be made. This is why this former voter of the moderate right also supports the National Rally in these legislative elections, like many police and military personnel, as various opinion surveys have shown over the years.

Cutting out the far left

His great fear for Sunday's second round is that the RN will not obtain an absolute majority and that President Macron will succeed in governing the country with the left-wing parties. A likely scenario, as both the presidential coalition and the New Popular Front have called for blocking the RN. Faced with a candidate from the National Rally in a position to be elected, the Macronists who had managed to qualify for the second round by coming third were called to withdraw in favor of the alliance of left-wing parties. The New Popular Front gave the same instructions to its candidates who came in third place.

“We risk ending up with a rainbow coalition. The country is going to be completely ungovernable. Macron is wrong to try to continue to avoid governing with the RN. The real threat to democracy is the left, with Mélenchon,” argues Jean-Paul Ricard.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of the radical left, has recently made numerous controversial statements on police violence and the Israel-Hamas war. In the eyes of many, he has become more dangerous than the far right, which has erased the most radical elements of its program, such as the ban on dual nationality.

Christophe, an unemployed man encountered in a café, also breaks out in hives at the mere mention of the name Mélenchon. Last Sunday, this abstainer voted for the far right. He did not want to give his last name, as membership in the RN remains a delicate subject for many in France.

“If I did it, it’s not for economic reasons or for purchasing power, none of that. It’s true that the country is doing quite well economically. But in terms of security and immigration, it’s another story. These are the only two reasons that motivated me to vote for the RN,” explains Christophe, also of Italian origin. On the other hand, he specifies that he feels “100% French”. For him, the direct link between delinquency and immigration is beyond doubt.

“The country has changed a lot”

Foreign people, i.e. those who do not have French nationality, represented 18% of people accused by law enforcement in 2019, while their weight in the population was then estimated at 7%. Still according to official government figures, the number of French citizens accused of misdemeanors or crimes increased by 1% between 2016 and 2019. The increase amounts to 15% among foreigners.

“I have come to the conclusion that not all cultures can fit into ours. I didn't have these ideas before. The last time I voted, before Sunday, was against Sarkozy, in 2012, because I found that his speech aroused hatred. I no longer see things in the same way today, because the country has changed a lot,” argues Christophe, becoming annoyed at the ostentatious presence of Islam in public space.

Providence Garcia is outraged that so many people from the first waves of immigration from southern European countries are today so hostile to the presence of Arabs in France. “What is that ? We opened the door for you and, now that you have entered, you want to close it ?” says the one whose parents fled Franco’s Spain.

This left-wing voter does not live in the 12th arrondissement, but she teaches Spanish in a public middle school there. A rather disadvantaged school, where some students have to resort to assistance programs to eat at lunch or to pay for their school supplies. That many of their parents, in precarious situations, of course, have today abandoned the left for the extreme right leaves her perplexed.

“The class struggle has been erased from people’s consciousness. The rich have managed to make the poor believe that their interests are the same. Today, there are people who worry that taxes will increase if the New Popular Front comes to power, when they don’t even pay any. One of the reasons for this great persuasion is called Vincent Bolloré,” says Providence Garcia with obvious detestation.

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Youth no longer bothers the RN

Vincent Bolloré is this rich Breton businessman whose conservative ideas rub off on the media he owns. Among its arsenal: the news channel CNews, often compared to Fox News. But also C8, the entertainment channel on which the clown Cyril Hanouna, the enfant terrible of French television, is rampant.

His show Touche pas à mon poste, which often takes on a circus feel with its completely overexcited guests, is one of the most listened to by adolescents and young adults in France. She is often accused of giving disproportionate speaking time to figures from the hard right.

“We see the effect on young people. I have students who are 14-15 years old and who distribute leaflets for the RN. We would never have seen this before. Young people today are more to the right than to the left,” saddens Providence Garcia.

She is part of the generation that chanted in the streets “Youth fuck the National Front” after the surprise qualification of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election in 2002. The times have a lot has changed since then, that’s fair to say.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116