In first round, French Muslims voted for anybody but Le Pen

Sunday 30/04/2017
Percentage of Muslim votes for each of the major candidates in the first round of the French presidential election. (The Arab Weekly)

Tunis - The results of the first round of the presidential election in France were no surprise when it came to the votes of Muslims, with the over­whelming majority casting ballots for anybody but far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, known for her hostil­ity to Muslim immigration.
A study by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) stated that the leader of the leftist movement La France Insoumise (Unbowed France), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, won 37% of Muslim votes. The second fa­vourite of Muslim voters was overall front runner Emmanuel Macron, a centrist, who gained 24%, followed by Socialist candidate Benoît Ha­mon, who received 17% of Muslim votes. Le Pen claimed 5% of Muslim votes.
Macron and Le Pen will face each other in the run-off on May 7.
The results of the IFOP study for the Catholic weekly magazine Pèlerin showed no major surprises. French Muslims have traditionally voted for the left, motivated by the attitude of religious tolerance and help to migrants that the socialist and communist parties have con­sistently promised to uphold.
In 2012, a study by the institute showed that 86% of French Muslims had voted for François Hollande, who won the election with about 51% of the national vote. The Mus­lim community in France accord­ingly constituted the force needed to tilt the balance in his favour.
Islam is the second most widely professed religion in the country, with Muslims making up about 5% of France’s electorate and approxi­mately 8% of the overall population.
Because surveys based on religion are prohibited by French law, poll­sters often look at geo-ethnic origins to identify the respondents’ reli­gious affiliations. This has mainly been the case in analysing attitudes of Muslim voters in Paris, Marseilles or Lyon, where there are large con­centrations of Muslims.
With no obvious political com­mitment to one party or movement, French Muslims, who continue to be at a disadvantage to the rest of the population in terms of economic in­tegration, have again shown a clear interest in socio-economic issues, the IFOP study indicated.
When asked to identify the most pressing issues that had swayed or could sway their vote, 75% of Mus­lim respondents mentioned the fight against unemployment. About 70% of the respondents offered an­swers that centred on health care, wage increases and improving pur­chasing power. Ensuring job stabil­ity also figured high on the list, with 59% of Muslim voters giving it as a response.
The results of the IFOP study showed that 50% of Muslim voters listed the fight against terrorism among their primary concerns, in the aftermath of multiple terrorist attacks that plagued the country in recent years.
While the Muslim vote went to dif­ferent candidates in the first round, French Muslims are expected to rally behind Macron in the second round.
On April 24, the Grand Mosque of Paris, a major Islamic centre in the French capital, urged French Mus­lims to unite against xenophobia and the “normalisation of Islamo­phobia” in the election run-off.
The Grand Mosque mufti, Dalil Boubakeur, released a statement urging French Muslims to vote for Macron, as society faces the “threat of division and fragmentation.”
“All the French people must im­peratively remain united in the face of the threat embodied by xenopho­bic ideas that are dangerous to our national cohesion,” said the Islamic institution, without citing Le Pen’s candidacy.
The French Council of Muslim Faith, the representative body of the second religion in France (4 million - 5 million faithful, 2,500 mosques), called on voters to unite against “schemes of exclusion and hatred” with the aim of thwarting “threats to national cohesion and coexistence.”
The Muslim Brotherhood-linked Union of Islamic Organisations of France also called on all Muslims to “defeat the process of exclusion and hatred” and vote for Macron.
Right-wing candidate François Fillon pledged to ban Muslim Broth­erhood-affiliated groups in France if elected. He finished third in the first round of voting.