News Agencies – April 19, 2012
France’s Muslim community is mobilizing voters to reject President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 22 April election to punish the conservative leader for his anti-immigrant and anti-Islam rhetoric. “[French] Muslims can’t stand it anymore. They are fed up with these debates about national identity, halal meat, the veil or fundamentalism all over the place,” said Francoise Lorcerie, a sociologist with the Institute of Studies on the Arab and Muslim World near Marseille.
Muslims – especially those living in the “banlieues,” France’s poor immigrant suburbs – sometimes have been courted by candidates with promises of jobs and better living conditions, but they mostly have been stigmatized as threats to the French identity, analysts say. In April 2007, polls found that French Muslims voted mainly for the Socialist presidential candidate: Segolene Royal won 64 percent of their vote, while Mr. Sarkozy got just 1 percent in the first round and 5 percent in the second.
Women hold a record number of seats in the new French parliament, including the first ever black female deputy elected on the mainland, but legislative elections Sunday failed to radically shift the balance in a chamber still dominated by white men. Political parties on the left and right were under pressure to boost the share of women and black and Arab lawmakers in the National Assembly. They can claim a partial success: 107 of the assembly’s 577 seats went to women candidates, a jump of 31 deputies compared to the outgoing chamber. With 18.5 percent of seats now held by women, France lifts its country ranking in terms of women’s representation in parliament from an embarrassing 86th to 58th spot, in between Venezuela and Nicaragua. Coming after Segolene Royal’s failed bid to become France’s first woman president, the result — which ushers in 61 women lawmakers on the left and 46 on the right — was greeted as a step in the right direction. It also follows the appointment by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France’s first government with gender parity, with seven of 15 cabinet posts held by women, a balance expected to remain following this week’s government reshuffle. But Le Monde newspaper said the improved number of women in parliament — lifting France just above the European average of 17.7 percent — was in itself “nothing to be proud of.” France sought to boost the number of women in parliament with a 2000 law obliging parties to field an equal number of men and women candidates, but it has only been partly followed despite heavy fines for offending parties.