Left Bank is right wing in Paris political divide

1st May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 30, 2007 (AFP) - Japanese tourists queuing at the Eiffel Tower or Americans admiring the ultra-modern Bastille opera might not realise it, but they are on either side of a political divide that splits Paris down the middle.

PARIS, April 30, 2007 (AFP) - Japanese tourists queuing at the Eiffel Tower or Americans admiring the ultra-modern Bastille opera might not realise it, but they are on either side of a political divide that splits Paris down the middle.

Of the city's 20 arrondissements, or districts, 10 plumped for right winger Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of the presidential election, while the other half came out for socialist Segolene Royal.

The wealthy 16th arrondissement, stretching westwards from the Arc de Triomphe monument, gave Sarkozy his best score in the French capital, a whopping 64 percent of the district's total vote.

At the far end of the city, the socially and ethnically mixed eastern 20th arrondissement, whose best known landmark is the Pere Lachaise cemetery, gave Royal her best showing at 42 percent.

On the national level, Sarkozy, who is the favourite to win the second round on May 6, took 31 percent of the vote, with Royal at 26 percent and Francois Bayrou, who is now eliminated, at 19 percent.

The dividing line in Paris runs roughly north-south down the centre of city.

The 18th arrondissement marks the northern frontier in the left-right split. It is home to tourist hotspots such as the Moulin Rouge and the Sacre Coeur basilica, both of which are in the picturesque Montmartre district.

"Historically the 18th has always been on the left," said Sebastien Ramnoux, political correspondent of Le Parisien newspaper. "The north of Paris was the revolutionary and left-wing base of the capital."

The population has changed dramatically over the years, he added. Today Montmartre is trendy and expensive and apartments there are much sought after by media, advertising, and showbiz types.

But in northern areas rarely visited by tourists, there remains a large working class and lower middle class population.

The arrondissement as a whole voted 42 percent for Royal in the first round, against 23 percent for Sarkozy.

Further south, on the other side of the river Seine, lie the fifth and sixth arrondissements of the Left Bank, epicentre of May 1968 riots by students who wanted to overthrow the bourgeois order.

Despite the history of left-wing rebellions in the universities on the Left Bank, it is today, and has long been, on the right.

"It has always been very rich people who lived in those districts, these are the historic quarters of the city. If you read Balzac, Saint Germain is where the aristocracy lived," said Paris novelist Luc Lang, referring to 19th century writer Honore de Balzac.

Just north of the river again, the fourth arrondissement, home to the Pompidou Centre and the Hotel de Ville, headquarters of the socialist mayor of Paris, saw a slight majority for Sarkozy -- 34 percent against 32 percent for Royal.  

But head westwards and most arrondissements are firmly on the right, including the areas surrounding the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, or the Opera.

And to the east the majority of Parisians voted left.

This divide is quite a transformation from 1989 when Jacques Chirac, the outgoing president, was mayor of the capital, said Ramnoux of Le Parisien. Back then, thanks to Chirac's formidable political machine, every single arrondissement in the city was on the right.

"There are two reasons why some arrondissements have come back to the left," he said.

"On the one hand there is a working class population which has never left, and then there is the new petite bourgeoisie who are now called bobos'," he said, referring to a supposedly new and relatively affluent social class of "bourgeois-bohemians."

The 10th arrondissement, in particular the formerly working class area around the Canal Saint Martin, and the areas around Bastille in the 11th, are 'bobo' bastions.

These bobos are contributing to the rapid gentrification of Paris, said Luc Lang, which is pushing the working classes and teachers or civil servants on modest incomes to th

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