Macron courts Muslim vote during last-minute visit to Parisian suburbs – POLITICO

SAINT-DENIS, France — Emmanuel Macron woos disgruntled left-wing voters and warns them against abstaining in the second round of Sunday’s presidential election by explaining what a victory for his far-right rival Marine Le Pen would mean for the French Muslim community.

The president-candidate traveled to Saint-Denis, a multicultural commune in the northern suburbs of Paris, on Thursday in a last-ditch attempt to win the support of a diverse, working-class community that has strongly backed veteran left-winger Jean- Luc Mélenchon in the first round of elections on April 10.

With far-right candidates Eric Zemmour and Le Pen stigmatizing France’s Muslims, Mélenchon has emerged as their defender, denouncing endemic “anti-Muslim sentiment” in the country. Ahead of Sunday’s second round, many Mélenchon supporters are hesitating between staying at home, voting blank or voting for Macron.

Meeting local groups in the town square, Macron sought to warn of the consequences of Le Pen’s arrival at the Elysee Palace.

After promising to do more for disadvantaged neighborhoods, he castigated Le Pen’s proposal to reserve social housing for the French, accusing his opponent of wanting to exclude foreign citizens from social housing.

For example, he says, “a young Moroccan woman who has two children, who works in the hospital, who was applauded every evening during the pandemic… with Madame Le Pen’s program, her social housing and family allowances. ”

“It’s a program of discord,” Macron told reporters, accusing Le Pen of “confusing terrorism, insecurity, immigration, Islam and Islamism all the time.”

This week, Le Pen stressed that she does not plan to expel foreign citizens because her proposal would not apply retroactively.

The president received a mixed reception, with some groups singing anti-Macron chants – borrowed from the Yellow Jackets movement – ​​and others cheering him on.

In the first round of the presidential election, Mélenchon triumphed in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis with 49% of the vote and particularly strong support from Muslim voters. In the city of Saint-Denis itself, he won more than 60%.

Dragging Seine-Saint-Denis voters away from Le Pen shouldn’t be so difficult as the multicultural community is the worst audience for Le Pen’s controversial proposals on immigration and the Muslim headscarf ban.

But convincing these voters to support Macron will be a more difficult task.

Seine-Saint Denis recorded the highest abstention rate of all French departments in the first round. The socialist department president and more than a dozen mayors this week urged voters to support Macron on Sunday. “If Marine Le Pen won catastrophically, the first victims would be there,” warned Mathieu Hanotin, the socialist mayor of Saint-Denis, who accompanied Macron in his walkabout.

Mélenchon told his constituents not to vote for Le Pen, but did not explicitly call on them to support Macron.

Headscarf debate

With Mélenchon now out of the running, Macron is doing what he can to secure those votes and seizing on Le Pen’s proposal to ban the Muslim headscarf in public as a chance to distance himself from his rival and bond with French Muslims.

During Wednesday’s televised election debate, Macron criticized the idea of ​​banning the hijab in public, warning Le Pen that it could “lead to civil war”. Speaking in Saint-Denis, he reiterated that no other country in the world has such a ban.

“On the scarf, what you [Le Pen] propose is a betrayal of French values, of the Republic,” he said.

This marks a subtle shift from previous sometimes ambiguous comments about the headscarf of Macron and his ministers. Although he has always opposed banning the hijab in public, he hinted in 2018 that it did not fully comply with French gender equality standards.

If some voters in Saint-Denis will rally to Macron’s side, others are still hesitant.

A teacher, who declined to be named, said the warning about a Le Pen presidency “is not a good argument” for voting Macron. “The president’s left turn is insincere and comes too late,” he said, adding that he would stay home on Sunday after voting for Mélenchon in the first round.

Khadijah, a 62-year-old Algerian retiree wearing a headscarf, who also voted for Mélenchon, said Le Pen’s headscarf ban would “start a war here” and that she would vote for Macron.

” He will win, Inshallah,” she says.


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