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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs