Roubaix’s bet to fight against a record abstention

A Roubaix, the elections pass and the participation dies. With 84% abstention on Sunday in regional and departmental elections, the third city of Hauts-de-France (98,000 inhabitants) set a sad regional record. A habit for one of the poorest municipalities in France.

“There are national factors that can be found everywhere in France. But in Roubaix, there are also local elements that come to be added, such as the social composition of the population. The degree of interest in politics is correlated with the level of education, social and professional integration. However in Roubaix, the unemployment rate is high, the level of education is lower than elsewhere and all of this contributes to creating a distance with politics ”, details Julien Talpin, researcher at CNRS and voting specialist in Roubaix.

The growing gap between elected officials and residents

And the gap continues to widen between two increasingly different worlds. “Politicians have never been so unlike the people as they are today. It is very hard to identify with representatives who do not look like you, who do not come from the same social backgrounds, who do not have the same experience of life as you. All of this contributes to reinforcing mistrust. And then there is also a disintegration of partisan organizations. For example, in ten years the PS section of Roubaix has gone from 250 to almost no activist. There is no longer any relay of political discourse, of intermediary in the neighborhoods, ”continues the researcher.

Municipal councilor delegated to associative life in Roubaix, Pierre-François Lazzaro realized this distance which increases during the last campaign of the departmental. Right-wing candidate (eliminated in the first round) in a Roubaix canton, he campaigned a lot on social networks, health context requires.

“When we publish things on social networks, it is always our activists who like. We are not going to look for other voices. We may have our photos on the networks but we don’t talk to anyone. It is a network of mobilization and promotion, but it is not real life. You have to go and talk directly to people on the ground, ”recognizes the elected official.

Do politics differently

But shaking hands in the market will not be enough to put people back on the way to the polls. For Vincent Boutry, it is the whole way of doing politics that needs to be reinvented if we want to fight against abstention. President of the” People’s and Citizen University (UPC) of Roubaix, this associative activist is very committed to participatory democracy in Roubaix. Through citizen cafes, evening classes, actions in the neighborhoods, he tries to revitalize the democratic life of the northern city.

“Today, the system of representation no longer works. People no longer want to give elected officials a blank check, they really want to be heard. People often talk politics whether in bistros or elsewhere. Their problems are jobs, health, education, security. If we manage to debate public policies, people will respond. On condition of having the impression that it is not just a simple consultation to validate a project tied up without the inhabitants. Elected officials must stop deciding before having consulted the population. A debate is not just opening a room and distributing a flyer, ”assures the president of the UPC.

Changing the rules of a game that no longer interests people

It remains to convince the politicians to change the rules of the democratic game via a major institutional reform. Which is far from being won. “Often, political professionals have no interest in initiating reforms and changing the rules of the game that brought them to power. There is real resistance from the political class. We have seen it at the national level with the citizens’ convention for the climate or even the RIC claimed by the Yellow Vests. All of this caused a lot of disappointment, ”analyzes Julien Talpin.

An opinion justly shared by Pierre-François Lazzaro. “We must change the patterns of citizen participation. There is no point in asking people the color of the slide for their park. They especially want to know if they will be relocated or secured. We have to reassure people. », Assures the elected Roubaisien.

“If the abstention continues to increase, it will blow up at some point”

Small steps which remain insufficient to change a situation which is only getting worse. “If from election to election, we continue to see the abstention increase, at some point, it will blow,” says Vincent Boutry.

The worst can still be avoided. “Until the 1970s, we voted more in Roubaix than in the rest of France, although it has always been a popular city. That means that there is no inevitability. It’s a question of political work and militant work to encourage participation, ”concludes Julien Talpin. Now is the time to act.

Source: 20Minutes – Une by

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