A Visit to France’s ‘Mirror Town’ Suggests Massive Voter Discontent
Châteaudun, a small town in France’s agricultural heartland, has the curious notoriety of being a ‘ville miroir’, voting as an almost mirror image of the national electoral pattern. In previous years, the town, located in ‘the bread-basket of France’, has voted remarkably similarly to the nation as a whole, predicting the outcome of presidential races and referenda.
The Gateway Pundit spent the final hours before election day speaking with locals to find out which way the wind was blowing.
Only an hour and a half – yet a world away from Paris – the friendly working class town south of Chartres, reflects both past glories and concerns for the future. The town, famous for its imposing castle, has seen economic troubles and a decline in purchasing power, many voters admitting that they have struggled in recent years to make ends meet despite working full time jobs.
Lydia, the manager of a bar in town, has a good idea of the political mood from overhearing conversations all day long. Despite polls showing Emmanuel Macron at least twenty points ahead of Marine Le Pen, she believes it could be a closer race, with a ‘’great number’’ of the town’s 13,200 inhabitants set to vote for nationalist, Le Pen. ‘’People are utterly fed up’’, she explains. ‘’They want a change, like the Americans who voted for Trump.’’ Whilst Macron appeared to have it in the bag, a Le Pen surge would not surprise her.
The sentiment was echoed by many of those approached on Saturday evening, across all age categories, including two friends crossing town with pizzas and a case of beer in hand. Thomas, 24, who had voted for far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the first-round was going to vote for outsider, Le Pen, in the final. Pierre, 23, like many voters engaged, had still not made up his mind. He planned to discuss with friends later and come to a decision by morning, or at worst, decide last minute in the polling booth.
Both explained that their parents and much of their peer group would be voting Le Pen, with a significant number abstaining. ‘’Fifty – fifty, Le Pen – Macron’’, they guess when pressed for a figure on how the town might vote overall.
Passing the 12th century church of Saint-Valérien, a newly arrived resident from nearby Orléans, agreed that the race could be close. The thirty-something would put his money on a fifty-fifty split but admitted that anything could happen.
Outside a restaurant on the main square, overlooking the phoenix-topped fountain, two girls smoking cigarettes revealed who they were going to vote for. One would abstain and the other would vote for ‘Tata.’
‘Aunt Marine’, they explained laughing, finishing their cigarettes to go back inside.
Inside the restaurant, the manager was the first Macron voter the Gateway Pundit found. Confident of his victory, she echoed the polls taken in recent days. ‘’A landslide’’, she expected. At the bar, there were several more Macron voters, either supportive of his economic program or voting strategically to block Le Pen.
‘’It will all end in tears no matter who wins’’, one pessimistic diner opined, echoing a fatalistic resignation which can be felt across much of France.
No such pessimism at the convivial bar and café, L’hippocampe (The Seahorse), where a dozen or so regulars were in high spirits, enjoying their Saturday evening, discussing the election in between jokes and camaraderie.
‘’The Great Suspense’’, Pascale Bellessort, writer and popular owner of the café, characterized the eve of the election.
‘’People have no idea who will win tomorrow’’, she explained, serving her signature croque-monsieur sandwich and filling the glasses of a lively bunch of regulars some of whom included ex-Parisians.
A quick poll revealed what was gleaned from earlier conversations; great support in the town for Le Pen, but also fear of the unknown, particularly of the economic consequences of leaving the euro. Perhaps the town would vote for the devil it knows, so to speak, rather than voting for an unknown quantity.
Some of the group were ‘ni-nis’, including Châteaudun native, Lydie – They would vote for neither candidate, either sitting out the election or voting blank, the French term for participating in the process yet choosing not to support a candidate.
If the town’s voting intentions and indecision reflect a national trend, the so-called ‘front républicain’, whereby establishment parties join together to mobilize voters against Le Pen may be considerably weakened from previous elections.
Running against Le Pen, however, there was much disappointment with her debate performance days earlier, and a feeling that she had lost potential voters during the two-and-a-half-hour spectacle.
‘’Then again, an entire campaign can’t be judged on one performance’’, Adrien, 24, considered, ordering a drink at the bar.
‘’Macron will win the big towns’’, 22-year-old friend and Macron supporter, Lucien, adds, ‘’but rural France and working France will mostly vote Le Pen ’’, an observation bringing to mind the US presidential race held almost exactly six months ago to the day.
As the café learns the Gateway Pundit is an American site, a jovial invite is extended to the U.S. President to visit Châteaudun during his first overseas trip – due to include stops in Europe later this month.
One thing is for certain; Trump will be meeting with the – by that time – newly installed leader of France, whether it be Macron or Le Pen.
The eagerly awaited result will be announced as soon as polls close at 8pm, Paris time.
At the time of writing, with five hours to go to the close of polls, reports have Macron leading in the French overseas territories.