PARIS – A few miles away from Paris celebrations after Emmanuel Macron won France’s presidential elections, residents of the largely-Muslim suburbs or “banlieues” received the news with a skeptic sigh of relief, ending fear of Marine Le Pen.
“I’m interested in politics, and I follow it all closely,” Mamad Koith, a 37-year-old sports writer who has lived in Bondy his entire life, told Vice News on Tuesday, May 9.
“I didn’t vote because we had a choice between Macron and Le Pen — he has no message, and we hate her. There’s a fear of foreigners and people like me in the country.”
Macron, the youngest person ever to run for presidency in France, the former investment banker, 39, claimed 65.1 percent to Le Pen’s 34.9 percent, according to the numbers announced by France2 at 8 pm Paris time as the polls closed.
While 90 percent of Paris voters chose Macron, residents of Bondy didn’t feel especially optimistic about the 39-year-old former banker who led the upstart En Marche! party with a pro-EU stance.
“I can speak to this area and say nobody voted, nobody went,” said Koith
In the first round of the presidential election, many in the poorer suburbs that surround Paris championed the far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
For the final vote, turnout was the lowest it’s been in 40 years: Around a third of all voters (26 percent, or just over 16 million people) abstained.
During both Macron’s and Le Pen’s campaign efforts, Bondy and other Parisian suburbs became a constant punching bag.
While Le Pen accused suburbs like Bondy of draining public resources, Macron promised to “emancipate” immigrant families from poverty and name-and-shame employers that discriminate against people on the basis of their origins.
Nevertheless, locals remain skeptical of Macron as he promised to keep the state of emergency in place, as well as bring in 10,000 new police officers.
The situation was not much different in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a suburb near Bondy where Soumaya A voted reluctantly for Macron.
The 19-year-old university student felt forced to choose between two candidates she didn’t want. She reluctantly voted for Macron, but “only to block fascism,” she said.
“I voted for him, but I will fight against him if necessary,” she added.
The end of election with Le Pen’s defeat did not bring much relief to Muslims who were affected by the hate messages she gave about Muslims during her campaign.
“As a young Frenchwoman, and as a future nurse, I worry about increasing unemployment. I am concerned about the gap between the rich and the poor. And I also worry about not being able to study or work freely because I wear a scarf on my hair,” Soumaya said.
Despite Macron’s decisive victory, at least 10 million French people voted for Le Pen, double her father’s election count in 2002.
These numbers were posing a risk in next parliamentary vote, a fact celebrated by Le Pen in her concession speech.
“She would have us believe that all the evils of France are caused by immigration,” Soumaya said.
“She carries a speech of hatred and rejection of the other, in particular towards French Muslims, and this is extremely worrying. Instead of defending the rights of Muslim women, as she claims to do, she will exclude them entirely from French society.”
In his victory speech on Sunday night, Macron stressed his desire to unite women and men “against the divisions that are tearing us apart.”
As he spoke, Soumaya sent a message on Facebook: “I’m shocked about the score. I thought the results would be tighter!”
“Still,” she added, “Le Pen got millions of votes. I don’t think there’s that much to celebrate.”