FRANCE-MUNICIPALES-PERPIGNAN: RN hopes for war in Perpignan
by Elizabeth Pineau and Alexandre Minguez
PERPIGNAN, Pyrenees-Orientales (Reuters) – Place Catalogne in Perpignan, the large, almost empty shell of the old historic store Aux Dames de France welcomes travelers arriving by train. At the foot of the sleeping Haussmanian building, two young men are begging and a gleaner searches a trash can.
At the edge of the city center, on the other side of the Basse river, posters announce the color for Sunday’s municipal elections: the smile of Louis Aliot, candidate supported by the National Rally, rubs shoulders with that of the mayor Les Republicains outgoing, Jean-Marc Pujol.
The stake is major for the party of Marine Le Pen, who was Louis Aliot’s companion for ten years: a city of 122,000 inhabitants would be a choice for the opponent of Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the presidential election of 2017 .
“It is the future of Perpignan that is at stake. We have a town hall, a system in place for 30 years and it is an opportunity or never to go on something else,” deputy candidate Louis Aliot told Reuters. in front of a map of the city pinned to his country room.
“The big theme that has emerged is security,” added the one who promises in particular a night service of the municipal police, with 160 officers, and surveillance cameras in addition to the 260 already in place.
On his poster, the one who is in his third municipal test has not put the RN logo because a third of his list comes from elsewhere, but French and Catalan flags around the Castillet, emblematic monument of the city.
Nestled between the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees, a quarter of an hour’s drive from Spain, Perpignan is a city of contrasts where black-footed, Maghrebian, gypsy and Portuguese immigrants meet, where a substantial number of residents taxed on fortune rub shoulders of the least fortunate: the poverty rate is 32%, that of unemployment reaches 14%, six points above the national average.
At the Cassanyes market, which adjoins the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Saint-Jacques mainly inhabited by sedentary gypsies sometimes in conflict with the Arab community of the neighboring Saint-Matthieu district, the Perpignan residents detail the challenges of a ballot they want to focus on their daily.
“IT IS LACK OF WORK”
“Safety, cleanliness and welcoming shops in the city”, sums up Charles in the middle of the stalls where women draw from bins of second-hand clothes at 0.50 and one euro.
“I am very downtown, I do my shopping there and it is a shame to see some shopping streets a little empty. It would take less large areas outside, free parking to attract the world”, says Serge, retirement.
“The problem is the economy, not security,” says Lionel. “It lacks work and therefore most of the problems in the city are linked to the lack of outlets and industries.”
“Aliot has no program, offers nothing, everything is demagogic. This is not my cup of tea at all, I will never vote for him but I do not see how he could do worse than Pujol”, adds this organizer of cultural events.
Credited by some 20% in the polls, Jean-Marc Pujol, 70, is attacked on his balance sheet and suffers from the splitting of his camp in a city that has always voted conservative.
His critics want to end the “Alduy-Pujol” era, two families who have run the town hall since 1959.
“The fear of immigration, the impression of downgrading and the anxiety linked to the future are the three important themes”, says Jean-Marc Pujol of his city where the movement of the ‘Yellow Vests’ was strongly expressed last year.
“FRONT OF COQUINS”
Among the other candidates is the deputy La Republique en Marche Romain Grau, classmate of Emmanuel Macron at the National School of Administration.
“To make Perpignan win is not to elect Mr. Aliot who would isolate us, would ostracize us. It is not to renew the outgoing mayor who has demonstrated that he was not up to par, it would be the mandate too much for him “, said this lawyer,” personal friend “of the Head of State, whom the polls give at less than 15%, surpassed by the environmental candidate Agnes Langevine.
In 2014, a “republican front”, which Louis Aliot described as “rascal front”, had prevented the head of the then National Front from gaining access to the town hall. The wall may not be as solid this year even if “nobody will want to take responsibility for making Aliot win,” slips a local socialist official on condition of anonymity.
For Louis Aliot, the neighboring municipalities of Beaucaire and Beziers, led by the RN, demonstrated the qualities of manager of the far-right party, currently at the head of 11 town halls in the impoverished South-East and the deindustrialized North.
“These are examples that speak to Perpignan residents,” he says. “We must prove to the local populations that we are capable of managing the affairs of a community and why not, tomorrow, of a country. We must remain modest and focus on the issues one after the other,” said- he.
(Edited by Jean-Michel Belot)