News / Europe

French Vote to Test Whether Political System Reflects Diverse Population

Fleur Pellerin pose for the first annual Washburne Award for innovation in diversity at the US Embassy in Paris, May 23, 2012Fleur Pellerin pose for the first annual Washburne Award for innovation in diversity at the US Embassy in Paris, May 23, 2012
x
Fleur Pellerin pose for the first annual Washburne Award for innovation in diversity at the US Embassy in Paris, May 23, 2012
Fleur Pellerin pose for the first annual Washburne Award for innovation in diversity at the US Embassy in Paris, May 23, 2012
Lisa Bryant
MONTREUIL, France - France's left is expected to sweep legislative elections, in a trend that saw Socialist Francois Hollande elected president last month. But from the Paris suburb of Montreuil, The vote will also test whether the country's political system can reflect its multiracial electorate.

Campaigning in France

Razzi Hammadi seems to know everybody in Montreuil. But he is not looking for friends. He is looking for votes. An ethnic North African, the 33-year-old Socialist is campaigning for a seat in France's National Assembly.

"I run because I want to represent my people. My people are all the persons who are coming from socially difficult situations. My people are all the persons who want change," said Hammadi.

Political change - but also social change. Hammadi is among dozens of minority candidates vying to become one of the assembly's 577 deputies. They represent the increasingly diverse face of France.

French law forbids statistics based on racial or ethnic origin. But experts estimate racial minorities make up about 10 percent of the population. Yet only about a dozen National Assembly deputies are black or ethnic Arabs.

Hammadi believes voters want to change this. "I think that they are ready. I think that they want this," he stated. "And they want the France looks more like the country and the nation."

A call for more diversity

Few French towns are more diverse than Montreuil. About a quarter of the population is foreign-born. Many more are second- or third-generation immigrants.

Resident Emmanuel Flipo likes the town's international character. "Here is a mix of every people on the planet - the second city of Mali, for example, there's a lot of Malians. And they bring something very important to Montreuil…that mixture makes sense to me," he explained.

Another resident, French-Guinean Alain Sankhon, also feels comfortable in Montreuil.

Sankhon says minorities are increasingly represented in politics - not only in Montreuil, but across the country. He credits former conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy for raising their profile.

But sociologist Michel Wieviorka says there is a lot more diversity in the private sector than in government. "If you look at the football team, you have people of all colors. If you look at…the artists, diversity exists. In business, you are going to have more diversity," he said. "And many people say, we are in favor of diversity - not for moral reasons, not for ethics, but for economic reasons."

But even French politics are changing. "All the political parties say something like, 'we have to introduce more diversity among our candidates.' They all say that. And they all try to have a certain number of candidates that can win," said Wieviorka.

But minority rights activist Louis Georges Tin says it is still not enough. A survey by Tin's association, CRAN, finds only 3 percent of this year's legislative candidates are of black or Arab origin.

"So now, what we need is a law - a law for diversity, exactly as we have in France for women and men [parity law] - that is what we need," Tin noted. "I don't think there's any other way to go and increase the number of black[s] and minorities in the parliament."

But affirmative action - or what the French call "positive discrimination" - is not popular here. Hammadi is also against it. He says he is confident he will win these elections. But he wants to be elected on his merits and not on his appearance.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs