Elysee Hopeful Woos Muslim Voters

Emerging as a formidable challenger to France's two presidential front-runners, centrist candidate Francois Bayrou is eyeing the Muslim vote for the April presidential elections.

Elysee Hopeful Woos Muslim Voters

Emerging as a formidable challengerto France'stwo presidential front-runners, centrist candidate Francois Bayrou is eyeingthe Muslim vote for the April presidential elections by defending the rights ofthe sizable minority and vowing to fight the spiraling Islamophobia in theEuropean country.

"He seems willing to tackle many problemsfacing Muslims such as Islamophobia and mosque construction," Lhaj ThamiBreze, Chairman of the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF), toldIslamOnline.net on Saturday, March 31.

"He is also ready to help allocate patches ofland to build Muslim cemeteries and fight discrimination against those ofimmigrant background."

During his election campaign, the centrist candidatehas met with many French Muslim scholars and youths in the Parisian suburbs.

He has also visited in the Seine-Saint-Denisdistrict, where nearly half a million Muslims live.

Bayrou has vowed to "normalize" relationsbetween people of different faiths in France once he is president.

He also lashed out at bids by other presidentialhopefuls to "politicize" immigration and national identity, sayingthey were courting the right-wing votes.

Earlier this month, Bayrou accused his Frenchpresidential rivals of harboring "nationalist obsessions" in anelection campaign focusing on immigration, national identity and patriotism.

Bayrou also opened salvos at right-wing candidateSarkozy for his mishandling of the 2005 French riots.

France was hit by a deadly wave of riots in 2005 following thedeath of two youths of immigrant background while fleeing police.

The deaths ignited pent up frustration among youngmen, many of North African origin, at racism, unemployment, marginalization andmistreatment by police.

"He (Bayrou) is fully aware of the importanceof the Muslim vote in the presidential elections," said Breze.

He said the Muslim vote this time could swing thebalance.

"Presidential candidates should notunderestimate the importance of the Muslim vote," he said.

Muslims Interests

Breze said the French presidential candidate havebeen invited to address the Bourget conference, the biggest Muslim conventionin Europe, scheduled for April 13-16 only one week before the Frenchpresidential elections.

"We will not campaign for a certaincandidate," he said.

"We will only make the issues of Islamophobia,discrimination and right-wing campaigns the focus of this year'sconvention," he said.

"The presidential candidates will be asked tocome clean on these issues to be backed by Muslims," he added.

Haidar Domerk, the UOIF deputy chairman, agreed.

"It is not the role of the UOIF to ask Muslimsto vote for a certain candidate," he told IOL.

"What matters is to press the Muslim demandsfor tackling Islamophobia and other issues."

Bayrou is supported by Minister for EqualOpportunities Azouz Begag, the only Muslim minister in the French government.

Less than four weeks before the April 23presidential poll, Bayrou has risen as a front-runner for the Elysee seat.

As many as half of potential French votersundecided, Bayrou is coming third in opinion polls after Nicolas Sarkozy, thecandidate for the ruling Union for a Popular Movement, and socialist runnerSégolène Royal.

Recent surveys showed that if Bayrou won enoughvotes on April 23 to get into a top-two runoff election May 6, he will beat hisopponent, whether it is Sarkozy or Royal.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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