- Title: French far-right targets biggest prize yet in border city
- Date: 12th March 2020
- Summary: VARIOUS OF CAMPAIGN POSTER FOR INCUMBENT PERPIGNAN MAYOR FROM RIGHT-WING LES REPUBLICAINS PARTY, DAVID PUJOL VARIOUS OF CAMPAIGN POSTER FOR FAR RIGHT NATIONAL RALLY MAYORAL CANDIDATE, LOUIS ALIOT
- Keywords: France Jean-Marc Pujol Louis Aliot National Rally Perpignan far right municipal election security unemployment
- Reuters ID: LVA002C4QYZ47
- Location: PERPIGNAN, PARIS AND LILLE, FRANCE
- City: PERPIGNAN, PARIS AND LILLE, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Duration: 00:00:06
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Story Text: In late January, police in Perpignan carried out a random spot-check on a local store in the town's run-down Bas-Varnet neighbourhood. They found the owner smoking cannabis in a back room, a stash of cash and cocaine hidden in tin cans.
Drug-related crime and high unemployment have made the town, nestled between mountains and sea on the border with Spain, fertile ground for the far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally) in France's mayoral elections this weekend.
"People complain about the lack of security in the town's streets and squares, particularly after dark," the far-right candidate Louis Aliot told Reuters on Tuesday (March 10). "We need more police on the streets to reassure citizens."
The 50-year-old former partner of party leader Marine Le Pen has made law and order the cornerstone of his campaign to wrest control of Perpignan's town hall from the decades-long grip of the centre-right. Opinion polls show he is favourite to win the first of the two-round election.
He is promising more police on patrol at night, a camera surveillance system that use artificial intelligence to spot suspect behaviour, and a crackdown on drug pushers.
If Aliot is successful, Perpignan and its 122,000 people will become the largest town run by the French far-right. Analysts predict Le Pen's Rassemblement National could win 30-50 local councils compared with the current 11 it holds in poorer parts of the southeast and the northeast's industrial rustbelt.
It is a tiny share of France's 36,000 municipalities. But running a town like Perpignan might help Le Pen convince voters the populist party, widely viewed as racist and xenophobic under her father's leadership, can be trusted in power.
"We need to prove to local populations that we're capable of running a local area, and why not tomorrow the country," Aliot said, who also talks of the need to reboot the local economy.
Unemployment in Perpignan is at 25 percent, three times the national average, and one in three people live in poverty, according to the INSEE statistics body.
In Perpignan's Cassanyes market, which abuts the historic Saint-Jacques quarter where rubbish litters the narrow, graffiti-filled streets, second-hand clothes sell for as little as 1 euro.
One pensioner lamented at how local stores had been driven out of the centre by out-of-town shopping malls, echoing a common refrain of the "yellow vest" protesters whose months-long revolt badly shook President Emmanuel Macron's authority.
An Aliot victory would underline the challenge for President Emmanuel Macron in persuading voters ahead of 2022 elections that his business-friendly economic reforms have delivered on a promise to create jobs and spur growth.
(Production: Alexandre Minguez, Ardee Napolitano)
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