‘Left-wing country that votes for the right’ – why French voters are moving right

The French electorate is moving further to the right, according to a new poll of 10,000 voters, although trust in president Emmanuel Macron has increased slightly over the last year.

'Left-wing country that votes for the right' - why French voters are moving right
French voters will go to the polls in April. Photo: Sameer Al Doumy/AFP

From representative sample of more than 10,000 people inscribed on the French electoral list polled between December 23rd 2021 to January 10th 2022, 32 percent identified as right-wing – an increase of 8 percent since 2016, according to a study by OpinonWay published earlier this week. 

Since the election of French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the percentage of people identifying as belonging to the far right has crept up from 7 percent to 11 percent. 

The graph from a recent study on political attitudes in France shows that more and more people identify as being on the right. Centrist and left wing political identification has remained largely stable. Droite means right-wing and gauche means left-wing.  Source: OpinionWay/CEVIPOF
The poll found that 39 percent of French people were satisfied with their lives (a four percent increase from last year) while 20 percent were dissatisfied (a one percent decrease).

35 percent of those surveyed said they had confidence in the government – the same proportion as last year – while 38 percent said that they trusted the President – a 2 percent increase on last year. 

The vast majority of those polled, 79 percent, agreed with the statement that “politicians talk too much but don’t act enough” – a five percent increase on last year.

Overwhelming majorities believe that the economy benefits bosses to the detriment of workers, that the government should take from the rich and give to the poor, that there are too many immigrants in France and that unemployed people can find a job if they look for one. 61 percent of those polled said that Islam represented a threat to the country. A majority said that more had to be done to advance the place of women in society. 

This confusing mix of results was summarised neatly by sociologist, Roger Sue, writing in Le Monde: “France is a left wing country that votes for the right.” 

“The electorate has become more volatile,” he continued. “The top down nature of out institutions has failed to produce republican integration.”

More than a quarter of those polled said it would be a good idea if the army governed France, 39 percent were in favour of an unelected strongman and 52 percent were in favour of government led by experts rather than elected officials. 

Just under half of voters believe the government has managed the Covid pandemic well. 

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Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

The final composition of the new French government was announced on Friday. A new investigation suggests that historic rape allegations against a newly appointed minister were ignored.

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

It didn’t take long for scandal to hit the France’s new government.

An investigation by Mediapart published the day after the final list of ministerial positions was announced revealed that two women have accused one of the appointees of rape. 

READ MORE Who’s who in France’s new government?

Damien Abad, the new Solidarity Minister denies the allegations and a police investigation into one allegation was dropped in 2017. But another could be about to open. 

Who is Damien Abad? 

Damien Abad is a 42-year-old son of a miner from Nimes in southern France who became the first handicapped MP to be elected in 2012. He has arthrogryposis, a rare condition that affects the joints.

Prior to his appointment as the Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and Disabled People, he was the leader of the France’s right-wing Republicans party in the Assemblée nationale

What are the allegations? 

Two alleged victims, who didn’t know each other, told Mediapart that Abad raped them on separate occasions in 2010 and 2011.

The first woman described meeting Abad for dinner after having met him weeks earlier at a wedding. She said she blacked out after one glass of champagne and woke up in her underwear in a hotel bed with Abad the next morning fearing she had been drugged. 

A second woman who lodged a formal charge against Abad in 2017 said that he harassed her by text message for years. She eventually agreed to meet with him one evening. After initially consenting, she told him to stop – but her plea fell on deaf ears as Abad raped her. 

What does Abad have to say? 

The new minister denies the accusations.

“It is physically impossible for me to commit the acts described,” he told Mediapart – in reference to his disability. 

He admitted to sending “sometimes intimate” messages, but said he had “obviously never drugged anyone”. 

“I was able to have adventures, I stand by my claim that they were always consensual.”

Is he under investigation? 

The second alleged victim made a formal allegation against Abad in 2017. 

A subsequent investigation was dropped later that year after a “lack of sufficient evidence was gathered”.

Mediapart report that Abad’s entourage were not questioned by police and that the MP told investigators that he had no memory of the alleged crime. 

The first alleged victim flagged the abuse to the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics – an unofficial watchdog monitoring elected bodies – earlier this month. 

The Observatory has since brought the case to the state prosecutor, but it is unclear if another investigation will be launched.  

Who knew? 

The tone deaf appointment of Gérald Darmanin as Interior Minister in 2020 was controversial because at the time he was under investigation for rape. His nomination was met with street protests in Paris and elsewhere. Feminists accused (and continue to accuse) Emmanuel Macron of not taking sexual violence seriously. 

The investigation into Darmanin’s alleged crime has since been dropped.

Some will question whether the naming of Abad shows that lessons have not been learned. 

“Once again a minister  in the government of Emmanuel Macron accused of rape,” said Caroline De Haas, the founder of the #NousToutes feminist movement. 

The Observatory sent a message warning senior party figures in the Republicans and LREM about the allegations on Monday – prior to Abad’s nomination. 

France’s new Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne denied having any knowledge of the warning. 

“I am going to be very clear on all these questions of harassment and sexual violence, there will be no impunity,” she said during a visit to Calvados. 

“If there are new elements, if the courts are summoned, we will accept the consequences.” 

READ MORE Who is Élisabeth Borne, France’s new PM?

The Observatory meanwhile claims it has been ignored. 

“Despite our alerts, Damien Abad who is accused of rape has been named in government. Thoughts and support to the victims,” it tweeted