Decisive Muslim Voting in France:
Sarkozy's Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Cost Him The Election
19 May 2012
By Karin Friedemann
France: Via La Vie:According to a poll by Opinion Way
and Fiducial for Le Figaro, 93% of Muslims voted for
Hollande. 7% voted for Sarkozy.
The poll was conducted May 6th among 1000 voters.
According to the polling agency, there are about 2
million Muslim voters. 59% of Muslims voted for
Hollande in the first round. 23% voted for Jean-Luc
Melenchon (Left Front) and 7% voted for François
Bayrou (Democratic Movement). Sarkozy got 4% of the
Muslim vote in the first round.
Socialist challenger Francois Hollande defeated
incumbent Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy by a relatively
narrow margin on Sunday, May 6 to become the next
French president for a five-year term. It was the
first election where French Muslims, who comprise over
5% of the population, were called out to vote.
Therefore, it is assumed that Sarkozy's anti-Muslim
rhetoric cost him the election.
Hollande got 51.8 percent
of votes compared with 48.2 percent for Sarkozy.
Hollande's election campaign bears similarities to the
Obama election campaign in the US, where the winning
candidate shrugged off Muslim support while
antagonists painted him with sinister accusations of
being in league with Muslims.
Tareq Ramadan, an imam in Geneva, Switzerland, became
a topic of debate for his opinion on the French
elections, and was accused of influencing the Muslim
vote. Ramadan replied: "When I attack Nicolas Sarkozy,
I'm taking on the government, the establishment. As
for the Socialist Party, I also regret that it has
abandoned its ideals. I hold both the mainstream
French political parties responsible for the rise of
the National Front.
"Canada's Globe and Mail reports: "Imams and Islamic
associations are calling on Muslims to do their duty
as citizens and go to the polls.
And while they're not officially endorsing anyone, the
call itself is a bold move in a country where
statistics on religious affiliation are formally
banned and where secularism is enshrined in the
Experts say that Muslims in poor neighborhoods and
Muslim youth tend to vote for the left. But the Muslim
vote is diverse, and Muslims have tended in the past
to avoid politics. Kamel Kabtane, the rector of the
Lyon mosque, who was among a group of imams at some 30
mosques in southeast France pressing Muslims to vote,
said, "By this initiative, we want to show that
Muslims aren't citizens of the second zone … They can
vote for whom they want but be present in the voting
"I want to condemn the conniving and irresponsible
attitude of the Socialist Party and its candidate
after religious leaders belonging to a network of 700
mosques called on followers to vote for Francois
Hollande," Eric Ciotti, lawmaker of Sarkozy's Union
for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, said in a press
release cited by The National newspaper on Sunday,
April 29. In the first round of elections, the most
extreme right-wing candidate, the National Front's
Marine Le Pen, won over 25% of the vote, "sending
shock-waves around France." The National Front
platform is comparable to the American Tea Party, with
its platform against globalism, immigrants, and
government social services.
Incumbent President Nicholas Sarkozy adopted these
right-wing attitudes in an effort to win NF votes for
his re-election but was perceived as hypocritical by
the truly conservative. Therefore Sarkozy won neither
the left nor right, but he did win the hearts of the
Israelis. 92.8% of French Jews in Israel with dual
citizenship voted for Sarkozy.
The whole concept of Muslims voting as a block was so
inflammatory that the head of the Grand Mosque of
Paris, Dalil Boubakeur said such calls to vote are
dangerous because they risk dragging a religion into
politics, and "I refuse it." However, other Paris
imams encouraged Muslims to vote, including Mohamed
Saleh Hamza who heads the northern Paris mosque where,
until last fall, the faithful spilled into the street
to pray because crowds had grown too big to fit
inside. Muslims "have a tendency not to vote. Now,
we're telling them that they are full citizens," Mr.
Hamza said." They're not organized yet, but that will
come."The election was highly contentious and often
bitter, but the newSocialist president is expected to
take office May 15. Hollande says he will make the
rich pay more tax and will improve the lot for workers
and the less well-off. He also says he will take
initiatives on a number of social issues, but it is
still unclear how far he can go and how these will be
financed. The new president has also vowed to withdraw
French troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2012.
Policy in the Middle East is unlikely to change
radically with Hollande, as this is an area where
there are no major disagreements between right and
left. Like the Conservatives, the Socialists have
close ties with Israel and these are likely to be
unaffected by the new regime. By American standards,
Hollande is unlikely to be perceived as
minority-friendly. He says he would not allow separate
menus in public cafeterias or separate hours in
swimming pools for men and women to satisfy demands of
the Muslim community. Hollande had said that if he is
elected president, "I will apply the law" on face
veils. In a country where horse pate is standard fair
in supermarkets, the French indignation against halal
meat may seem extreme to the casual observer.
Americans may take note of the drama and decide for
themselves, but in general, American norms of civil
rights and religious freedom far exceed the existing
situation for Muslims in France.
Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance