A top polling official during France’s regional elections last Sunday was demoted from her post for wearing a headscarf, according to official statements and French local media.
Rachida Kabbouri, a Muslim municipal councilor of the European Ecology - The Greens (EELV) party in Vitry-sur-Seine in the greater Paris Ile-de-France region, was appointed head of a polling station in the department of Val-de-Marne during the first round elections.
But after the prefect of the Val-de-Marne got complaints about Kabbouri wearing a headscarf, the young woman’s position was demoted to polling station assessor.
According to French election laws, polling station heads are subject to the "principle of neutrality" since they represent the state, which is why Kabbouri was reassigned to a lower position, said a statement by the prefect’s office.
In an interview with Le Parisien daily, Kabbouri said that she "felt injustice and exclusion to tears."
She said the unexpected move affected her deeply, adding that while she was on duty at the ballot box, a woman insulted her and called an "Islamist."
On the other hand, in Saint-Denis, also in the Paris suburbs, Jordan Bardella, a candidate of the far-right National Rally (RN) – an anti-immigrant, xenophobic party – was welcomed to the polls by a headscarf-wearing polling station staffer, creating a media buzz.
Mathieu Hanotin, the mayor of Saint-Denis, said on Twitter that the poll staff can wear headscarves or any clothing or symbols they wish indicating religious affiliation.
He underlined that the principle of neutrality in the election office requires political neutrality, not religious neutrality.
Rebuffing critics of poll workers wearing headscarves France, Hanotin said: "What has no real place in our democracy is not a headscarved woman who contributes to the proper conduct of elections, but rather rhetoric which waving the 'flag of secularism' to stigmatize Islam or any other religion."