Emmanuel Macron is engaged in his career battle to persuade left-leaning voters – many of whom have taken to the streets to oppose his government over the past five years – to run next Sunday and give him a second term. .
Both Macron and Le Pen must convince some of the 7.7 million people who voted for radical left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, narrowly eliminated in the first round of voting last week.
In the town of Trappes, southwest of Paris, where nearly 61% of voters chose Mélenchon, opinions are divided on the way forward.
Le Figaro The newspaper suggested that “on the presidential highway, Emmanuel Macron is attempting a subtle left turn”. But asked what Macron can do to seduce the left, the mayor of Trappes, Ali Rabeh, a former member of the Socialist Party, reversed the question. “To be honest, he better be quiet because every time he opens his mouth, he infuriates our voters, and that encourages them not to vote or to vote blank,” said Rabeh, who campaigned for Mélenchon.
“If Macron is going to say anything, it should be a clear message of compromise, not something vague like maybe lowering his 65-year-old retirement proposal to 64 and a half. People are not so sleepy; it’s just playing with fire.
Mélenchon advised his supporters that “not a single vote should go to Madame Le Pen”, but clarified that the second round vote is equivalent, as the French say, either “to the plague or to cholera” for those from the left . Rabeh believes – reluctantly – that there is no other choice.
“Le Pen is in a position to win, and if she does, it will be the most vulnerable, minorities, immigrants, undocumented people, who will suffer the most. I’m not going to campaign for Macron, but I don’t think we have a choice. We should not underestimate the support for the far right.
Last Sunday saw an unexpected push for Mélenchon, who finished just behind Le Pen. Nearly 22% of voters chose the leader of the radical left La France Insoumise and now feel “politically orphaned”, Rabeh said.
Polls suggest that 30% of Mélenchon voters could vote Macron, 23% Le Pen, and the rest will abstain or vote blank next Sunday.
Trappes, whose most famous inhabitants are actor Omar Sy, footballer Nicolas Anelka and French comedian Jamel Debbouze, has a large immigrant population, many with North African roots.
The far right claimed the city was a hotbed of religious radicalization. In February, Jordan Bardella, interim leader of Le Pen’s far-right National Rally, was formally indicted for hate speech after he described the city as an “Islamic Republic”. Rabeh, the son of Moroccan immigrants, describes this as an unfair stigma.
On Friday at the Trappes market, Clément Likwengi, 52, a fire safety adviser, said: “People here will never vote for Le Pen for the simple reason that she represents divisional politics. I think people in France forget that Macron revived the French economy, reduced unemployment and took care of people during the Covid crisis.
He said he would vote for Macron next Sunday and hoped his son, 27, and daughter, 19, who were enthusiastic supporters of Mélenchon and were “extremely disappointed” by his defeat, would do the same.
Thierry, 59, a bricklayer, who declined to give his full name, voted for Mélenchon in the first round but said he would not support any candidate in the second. “There’s nothing Macron can say to me to change my mind. He’s already had 10 years in public life, five in the finance ministry and five as president, so we know what he’s got. did and what he will do.
“I will vote, but I will vote blank. Of course, I fear that Le Pen will win, especially for the community here in Trappes, but, as they say, fear will not stop the danger.
Hania Maouch, 47, who was shopping with her 16-year-old daughter Ghalia, said her family and friends voted Mélenchon in the first round. She admitted that many were undecided about the second.
“We were disappointed with Mélenchon. I think half will vote Macron and the other half won’t vote at all,” she said.
Mélenchon consults 315,000 party members to decide on a collective answer to the question of who to vote for on Sunday. In a letter to supporters, he wrote: “The one and the other are not the same.”
Manon Aubry, of La France Insoumise de Mélenchon, told the Observer it was not up to the party to tell people how to vote, but he added: “We know that Le Pen is dangerous. If both candidates have a disdain for the working class, she adds a disdain for race; if both offer liberal politics, she adds xenophobia.
Describing Macron as “the least worst”, she added: “We have nothing to negotiate with him. It’s up to him to say what he will do to address the anger that many feel towards him.
It was this anger that sparked protests at several universities including the Sorbonne and Sciences Po last week, with students shouting “Ni Macron ni Le Pen”.
On Friday, a group of elderly Maghreb men – sitting in the spring sunshine, chatting near the Trappes market – said they were not allowed to vote in France, but were not particularly worried about the outcome . “Macron will win and life will go on as before,” said one. What about Le Pen’s threat to expel foreigners? “She says that, but it’s not going to happen,” he added.
Rabeh fears that this nonchalance is deeply misplaced.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re going to have to hold our noses and vote for Macron.”