On Sunday, April 22, French citizens will be called upon to vote in the presidential elections. They will have to choose whether to give a second mandate to the incumbent, President Nicolas Sarkozy, who represents the main right political party (UMP), or to elect a new president,from the other political parties. Meanwhile, some are questioning whether the Black vote can impact the election.
In France, it is not only dificult to answer to such a question, some insiders say it is also daring to raise the issue.
In an interview with the Amsterdam News, Rama Yade, a French right-wing politician and former member of the government of Sarkozy, said:
“This subject is taboo in France. The constitution only recognizes citizens and not races, so people should vote only as citizens and not according to their racial origins.”
Maboula Soumahoro is an associate professor of American (U.S.), African-American and African studies. She formerly taught at Columbia University and now teaches in France.
In an Amsterdam News interview, she said, “Raising such a question is daring but essential. Answering it is a dificult task since the ‘Black community’ doesn’t exist yet in France, even though it is developing. Consequently, it is hard to make estimations or to analyze the Black vote.”
This task is dificult since the French state law forbids any studies or statistics based on race.
Yet in a recent study, two French searchers, Vincent Tiberj and Patrick Simon, have managed to analyze the vote according to people’s origins and concluded that race can impact the vote, and that most of the Black French citizens are likely to vote for the left political parties.
For example, according to the study, “48 percent of immigrants from Sahelian Africa politically see themselves voting for the left parties, while 7 percent of them see themselves in the middle parties and only 2 percent agree with the principles of the right parties. Thirty-two percent of them don’t choose any political side and 10 percent refused to answer.”
The same tendency to vote for the left parties can be observed among the citizens from the French West Indies, as well as among immigrants from Central Africa. To explain this, an African television news journalist working in France, who preferred to stay anonymous, told the Amsterdam News:
“It is part of the tradition for Black French people to vote left.This tendency has been more common since the 1990s when Francois Mitterrand [French president from the left party from 1981- 1995] solved the situation of many African people who were undocumented. My father was among these people.”
“Besides, the ideas that the right parties are representing are contrary to the realities that Black people have to face daily. The right parties feed the controversies by multiplying amalgams when talking about immigrants or young people living in the unprivileged suburbs areas.”
For Kofi Yamgnane, a French politician of the left Socialist Party, in France, people have to consider that there are two types of Black French people.
“First of all, there are those who have the nationality and can vote.These people will be more likely to vote for the candidate or the political party that will be able to help them be well-integrated in the society. They want someone who will fight against any type of stigmatization of the Black community.”
“They want someone who will help them find a job, someone who will house them and who will allow them to study in the best ways.They want someone who will give value to the Black culture in general,” Yamgnane told the Amsterdam News.
Then, he says, there are those Black people living in France whodon’t have citizenship and consequently can’t vote, yet are interested in the presidential elections in general. Their opinion might impact the Black French who can vote.
“In France, even the undocumented Black people are interested in the presidential run. This could be explained by the fact that they are expecting a candidate who could understand them and give them their documentation. Their future, as well as the future of the country that they have left for France, rests in the hands of the future elected president.”
Rokhaya Diallo, a French journalist and anti-racism activist, is more doubtful concerning the relevance of Black people trusting the left political programs for the immigrants. In an interview with Le Monde, she said:
“I am surprised by the fact that so many people who belong to the ‘minority group or non-white people’ still trust the left party program concerning immigrants’ status. This party has been really shy on this subject.”
“They promised the right to vote for foreigners since 1981. Minorities are not represented enough in political campaigns. And when we look at the Socialist Party [the main left political group], it is disappointing to see that there is nothing new…Many are doubtful about the left parties’ promises. “
When talking to the Amsterdam News, Diallo also explained that the concept of the Black vote in France is very large. “The social backgrounds have to be taken into account, because your Blackness doesn’t define the way you vote,” she said.
Recently, the Movement of French Africans, a political lobby group, has called on the African French to vote for the left Socialist Party’s candidate, Francois Hollande, for president.
Observers can only wonder if they are trying to urge a vote motivated by race, family tradition, social background or personal circumstance.