Suburb braces for possible Sarkozy win

6th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

ARGENTEUIL, France, May 6, 2007 (AFP) - In the volatile Paris suburb of Argenteuil, Doratine Ekoka cringed at the possibility of a victory by Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday's vote, saying it "would be like a punishment from God."

ARGENTEUIL, France, May 6, 2007 (AFP) - In the volatile Paris suburb of Argenteuil, Doratine Ekoka cringed at the possibility of a victory by Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday's vote, saying it "would be like a punishment from God."

Like many in the high-immigrant town northwest of Paris, Ekoka cast her ballot for the right-winger's socialist rival Segolene Royal, under crisp morning sunshine at a sports centre near the town's roughest housing estate.

The 70-year-old retired computer programmer said she would trust Royal, 53, "to clean up public life."

"Sarkozy is a man who will never change -- he has a terrible character," said Ekoka, who has lived in Argenteuil for the past 40 years.

It was in Argenteuil that Sarkozy, 52, called troublemakers "racaille," or rabble, during a visit as interior minister in 2005, a term that made him a hate figure for many immigrants.

In the first round, the town's Arab, Asian, African and working-class French residents turned out massively, putting Royal firmly in first place with more than a third of votes.

Johan and Julie, a Chinese couple, both 53, who adopted French-sounding first names after arriving from Beijing 15 years ago, said they backed Royal "without hesitation, for a fairer society".

"For me the choice was crystal clear: I want women to have more power," said Marie Biagui, a 63-year-old social worker of Senegalese origin. "A woman is quite capable of running a country, not just of having children -- and a mother also sees things differently."

Same message from Djamila Aberkane, a 35-year-old social worker of Algerian descent, who backed Royal "for the sake of equal opportunities -- the divide between places like this and Paris is getting bigger all the time."

But Aberkane, aware of Sarkozy's clear lead in the polls, was resigned to the prospect of him winning: "France isn't ready for a woman in power. They've done it in the Nordic countries, but they're half a century ahead of us in that respect."

In Argenteuil, as in other suburbs hit by riots in 2005, there have been warnings of fresh unrest if Sarkozy is elected. Security has been stepped up in Paris and its surroundings to head off trouble, with some 3,000 riot police on alert.

Aurelie Legrand, a 21-year-old student from the French island of La Reunion, said she voted for Royal to try to block a Sarkozy victory.

"People say that if he wins there will be more violence so naturally it makes you think."

But many others in the neighbourhood said they would not let the threat influence their choice.

Ben Nodji, a 33-year-old telecoms technician from the Comoros Islands, said he expected trouble if the right-winger is elected. "I take the rumours seriously, I saw cars burning outside my flat in 2005 -- but that doesn't mean I didn't vote for him either."

Jacqueline Roget, a 52-year-old grandmother from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, said she was "not afraid, no matter who wins," and predicted "any violence will "quickly simmer down."

"If Sarkozy wins, I think people will react badly -- but they're stupid. I would be happy," said Roget, who complains of rising vandalism in her area and approves of Sarkozy's tougher line on crime and welfare dependency.

"Segolene is a woman like me, but she's too maternal. It just doesn't work," she said. "I've watched the kids around here grow up and they still insult me. I don't want to see my grandson keeping watch for drug dealers when he's 12 years old."

"I lost my job in the wine sector after 23 years, but I've gone and found more work as a temp -- I won't sit around on benefits."

Zegane Moguiny, 54, who moved to France six years ago from Pondicherry in southern India, was even clearer in her support. She backed "Mr Sarkozy, of course!" "He is a brave man, he follows the law. And I pray to God that he


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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