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French Presidential Elections: The role of Muslims

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Emmanuel Macron (L) and Marine Le Pen (R) presidential contenders, 2022. (File Photos)

The 2022 French presidential election is divided into two rounds; a free for all and the runoff vote between the top two contenders. Twelve candidates, ranging from the far right to the far left, are running in this election.

If a candidate secures over half of the total vote, they will directly win the election; however, this hasn't happened since the re-election in 1965 of Charles De Gaul.

Lacking a clear super majority, only the top two candidates make it through to the second round and whoever wins that round will be the new French president for a five year term.

President Emmanuel Macron aspires to be the first incumbent to win re-election since Jacques Chirac in 2002. He has vowed to continue decreasing taxes and to increase the age of retirement to 65 and bring France back to full employment after decades of mass unemployment.

Macron entered the race late and his second term is facing a real threat from the far right candidate, Marine Le Pen, as polls show a closing of the gap between the incumbent and his main rival.

Le Pen was the runner up in the 2017 elections; this will be her third attempt at the presidency. She's a key far right figure and the daughter of John Marie Le Pen, who founded France's National Front and is notorious for his racist anti immigrant views.

Le Pen has focused her campaign on the cost of living crisis while her proposed anti immigration programme would ban the Muslim headscarf from all public places.

Voters have complained of a lack of new political ideas or vision and few solutions to their problems, including purchasing power, the high cost of living, dearth of health care and the fight against climate change.

There have been fewer rallies and voters have complained there were no direct TV debates between all candidates. As a result, an unprecedented number of fringe voters say they are unsure who to vote for, particularly young and low income voters.

Voter turnout has decreased from 84% in 2007 to about 78% in 2017 and it is believed that voter abstention may be even higher this time. A low turnout could have a major impact on the vote.

The 2022 presidential election in France is unlike any of the previous ones, mainly due to the events that have taken place on the political and social arena in recent years, and the increasing pressure on minorities, such as Muslims and immigrants.

For Muslims, the election of Emmanuel Macron was supposed to provide relief after five years of François Hollande, however, President Emmanuel Macron's first term in office has been gloomy for French Muslims at best.

Many French Muslims no longer see him as the centrists that he claimed to be in 2017, particularly after the adoption of the separatism law in the summer of 2021.

The government claims its legislation is intended to strengthen France's secular system.

Critics however, say it unfairly singles out the Muslim community and restricts religious freedom France has been criticized by international organizations and NGOs, especially the UN, for targeting and marginalizing Muslims with the law.

Since February 2018, France has controlled nearly 25,000 mosques, schools, associations and workplaces, closing 718 of them, including over 20 mosques.

Like many other European and Western nations, [France] is going through ever increasing Islamophobia. Environment of hatred against Muslims the reality is that this environment is escalating by politician and by the policies of targeting Muslims as the root of their problems for everything whatsoever [sic] .

Massoud Shajareh, Islamic Human Rights Council

The self-proclaimed centrist Macron has no solution for the anti Muslim problems in France. And in the event that the far right leaning Le Pen replaces him, things are probably not going to change for the better.

Therefore, French Muslims have a choice to make; abstention, or taking a chance on a left leaning candidate.


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