News / Europe

French Voters Concerned About Economy Ahead of Election

Lisa Bryant

Campaigning is underway in France's April presidential election. Incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy faces an uphill battle for re-election. Many French dislike his leadership style. But the biggest voter concern is France's sluggish economy, and how to turn it around.

At the northern Paris branch of Secours Populaire, people are loading up on basics that will get them through the week. The French charity offers food, clothing and emergency shelter to the needy. Volunteer staff check them in. For a token contribution of 50 centimes, about 66 U.S. cents, they can fill up their shopping carts.

Local head Alain Chetaille says the charity's caseload has jumped 50 percent over the past year. He knows why, hard times in France.

Chetaille says people are worried about jobs, money and housing and their long-term future.

People of every age come here. Some live alone, but many have families who depend on them.

Chetaille says nearly four in 10 people seeking assistance here are single mothers.

Thirty-two-year-old Nadia Coulibaly is one of them. She and her six-month-old daughter spend their nights in emergency shelters. She is a qualified travel agent, but she cannot find a job.

Coulibaly says finding a job is extremely difficult. France's economic crisis can be felt in all parts of the economy.

Bread-and-butter issues like housing and jobs are likely to dominate France's presidential elections. Nearly 10 percent of French are unemployed, and the economy is barely growing.  

Political science professor Steven Ekovich, of the American University of Paris, says voters are afraid. "It's no surprise that the economy is going to have some influence on this election. When people feel they're in a fragile situation, they will be more tempted to go for somebody who offers a bold solution, or at least a reassuring solution," he said.

Not surprisingly, political opponents blame the economic problems on conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.  But as he campaigns for re-election, under the theme of "a strong France", Mr. Sarkozy is fighting back, claiming his policies have saved the country from ruin. He promises more reforms to create jobs, boost growth and make France more competitive.

"The political debate is not about the economy per se, it's about the budget - how to deal with the economy. How much the state should be spending to jumpstart the economy," said Ekovich.

Mr. Sarkozy is also cracking down on immigration, a popular theme shared by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who is running third in the race.

The narrow front runner is Socialist Party challenger Francois Hollande, although President Sarkozy is closing the gap.  Hollande wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and invest in education, research and employment as a way to grow the economy.

"He's presented himself as the realist Socialist. He's lost some votes on the left for that," said Ekovich.

But Hollande has won over 61-year-old artist Theo Cas. "I'm voting for Francois Hollande. My convictions are on the left, like Social democrats, the importance of the state has to be reassured," he said.

But at Secours Populaire, Coulibaly is throwing her support behind Mr. Sarkozy.

She says things are not going too badly. The other candidates talk, but they have not proved themselves.

The first round of voting is still two months away. Analysts say plenty could change in the race. One thing is certain: France's economic problems, and how to fix them, will dominate the debate.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs