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, 2012 Fleur 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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.