France's unrepresented millions

29th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

France counts some five million men and women of Arab origin. But this huge community has not a single representative among the country's members of parliament. As Hugh Schofield reports, the situation is unlikely to change after this month's general election.

Following the presidential election breakthrough of far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen - and with crime and unemployment among France's North African minority featured as problems now universally recognised - there is a growing feeling that the lack of representation is an unacceptable anomaly.

Not only are none of the 577 deputies in the National Assembly from the so-called "beur" population, but neither are any members of the upper house, the Senate, nor any of the country's 36,000 elected mayors.

"It is shameful for France," said Zair Kedadouche, an adviser in the mid-90s to centre-right prime minister Alain Juppe who has written a new book entitled, France and the beurs.

"I am ashamed every time I go to Britain or the US. When I tell people there that such a huge minority has no political representatives they are dumbstruck. And France is the country that presumes to hand out lessons to the world!" he said.

In the two-round parliamentary election that takes place on Sundays June 9 and 16, a rough tally shows that around 150 of more than 8,400 candidates are of Arab origin - but most of these are from minor parties and practically none has a realistic chance of winning through.

Of the two main parties, the Socialists have selected only two candidates of North African origin - "a scandal", according to one of them, Bariza Khiari - while the centre-right Union for the Presidential Majority (UMP) has chosen only one.

According to Khiari, "There are many brilliant young people from immigrant families but they are consistently overlooked. Sometimes it's at the grass-roots level that their paths are blocked, but it's also the national leadership that is failing to take them on."

0 Comments To This Article