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 Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs