– For several years we have fought against the labor market policies of Macron.
Hayange is one of eleven French communes with a mayor belonging to the Front Nationale. In the first round of the presidential election, Le Pen recieved a majority of votes here. Leftist candidate Jean-Luc Melanchon came in second.
This is a region that once was dominated by heavy industry. Now it’s a region where the unemployment rate is higher and the poverty greater than national averages.
According to Gilles Wobedo, a nurse and the chairman of the local ’resistance’, these are factors that help the far right to gain support.
”Yes, here it is very clear what the austerity policies of liberal politics have resulted in. The blast furnaces are dormant, and the courts have been closed”
He has joined many other local inhabitants in finding work north of the border in Luxembourg.
”People are surprisingly unaware of what would happen if we were to leave the EU”
Gilles Wobedo is active in Melanchon’s political movement ”Unbowed France”, and believes that Emmanuel Macron will win the election with or without his vote.
”And then, yes, we will spend the next five years fighting him”
Another member of the local resistance is Hugues Miller, a park worker and a representative for CGT, one of the national trade union confederations in France.
He speaks of the loss of spirit among the communal workers since the Front Nationale took local power.
”Those who play the game advance quickly. The mayor likes to put on a show, but there is no investment of note”
Despite of this, Hugues Miller will vote in the second round with a blank ballot. He refutes the notion that that would make him responsible for a Le Pen presidency.
”I can’t vote for Macron. He stands for politics that are the cause of the support for Le Pen.”
Gregory Zabot is a worker at the city’s largest steel plant, Tatal Steel, and is also union steward for CFDT, another of the national confederations.
He plans not even to visit the ballot office on Sunday, as he allies himself with the leftist anarchists.
”I am of course against Le Pen. But I doubt she can do much damage. She will not be able to gather enough support in the National Assembly to be able to execute her program.”
The split within the left is therefore one of several uncertainties as the second round vote draws near.
In party politics, the leader of the Socialist Party, Benoît Hamon, does not hesitate to call all his followers to put their votes on Emmanuel Macron. In contrast, it took Jean-Luc Melenchan a full five days before annoncing he would be voting, and ”it wouldn’t be for Marine Le Pen”.
Among unions, the leadership of CGT has not announced any policy for members to ”stop Le Pen”. CFDT though encourage everyone to vote for Emmanuel Macron.
Gerard Reinholt, a CFDT represenative at the tax authority in Hayange shows no doubt. He compares the choice to that between being troubled by hemmoroids and having colon cancer.
”I too am critical of the politics of the Hollande government. But this is about the survival of the French republic and our membership in the European Union.
70 years of peace in a historically war torn region does have real meaning.
Anna Trenning-Himmelsbach, freelance journalist, France
FACTS: The French election
On Sunday May 7, the second round of the French presidential election will be held.
Emmanuel Macron, a former minister of finance in the Hollande governement, leads the new party En Marche! Against him is the leader of the Front Nationale Marine Le Pen.
Results from the first round of the elections, listing the six foremost from the total field of eleven
En Marche, Emmanuel Macron: 24 percent
Front Nationale, Marine Le Pen: 21.03 percent
Republicans, François Fillon: 20 percent
Unbowed France, Jean-Luc Melenchon: 19.58 percent
The French Socialist Party, Benoît Hamon: 6.36 percent
Debout La France, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan received 4.70% and has now endorsed Le Pen for the second round.
In the 11th and 18th of June the French people will elect their representatives in the National Assembly. The outcome will affect greatly the new president’s possibility to enact their political program.
The two largest trade union confederacies are the reformist CFDT which to a relatively large extent have supported the acting Hollande government, and the more radical CGT, which previously were closely linked to the Communist Party and that have been firm opponents to the government during the latest term of office.