April 22, 2007


French slums key to presidential vote?: Front-runner Sarkozy finds himself on the defensive in the leftist bastions, but he has supporters there too (Sebastian Rotella, April 22, 2007, LA Times)

"It's true that after the riots of 2005, many young people accepted our appeal," said local Socialist leader Ali Romdhane, a former city council member who led a drive here that registered 7,200 new voters, a 15% increase.

"In a way, Sarkozy helped us. Our slogan was, 'Vote instead of vandalize.' We told the young people that their strength rested in their voter identification card. And they are the ones who are going to make the difference."

But Sarkozy's rivals may be simplifying matters. The 52-year-old has won admirers on France's toughest streets precisely because of his plain-spoken, pugnacious attitude and his crime-fighting record as interior minister, experts say. And his feud with a relatively small population of youths enhances his popularity with older, more conservative voters, they say.

"There's a rupture between him and the immigrant youth, but overall the political forces in the banlieues are more balanced than you would think," said a veteran police intelligence official who asked not to be named, using the French term for areas on the urban periphery that typically contain industrial housing projects. "Sarkozy does well with a population, whether French or North African, that wants security restored in the housing projects. He's responsible for the rupture with the kids, but he also benefits from it."

Although the police official disagrees with Sarkozy's politics, he said the candidate is one of the few leaders with a keen insight into the brew of crime, poverty, alienation and Islamic extremism in the slums. Sarkozy resigned as interior minister recently to run for president.

A pro-Sarkozy youth leader in Argenteuil said he respects the candidate because he has a long record of visiting underprivileged areas, where he emphasizes hard work, upward mobility and equal opportunity.

"What happened here with the youths who want to derail Nicolas Sarkozy is not representative of what's happening in the banlieues," said Tarek Moudane, 27, who leads a local youth association called Blue, White and Red. "In fact, those were youths who don't vote and don't have the slightest notion of the political world. I've got kids who come to see me at the association and say, 'Yeah, we like Sarkozy,' but a lot don't want to say it loud. But they tell us that he's the only gentleman who can get France going."

So the French Left thinks it helps to portray themselves as the choice of the lawless?

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 22, 2007 7:34 AM

So the French Left thinks it helps to portray themselves as the choice of the lawless? Why not? It helps the American Left to portay themselves as the choice of jihadists.

Posted by: ic at April 22, 2007 1:18 PM