It’s Saturday, a day of reflection before the first round. It’s finally sunny. And the elections do not seem, by far, the greatest concern of the citizens of Châteaudun. If one had to take stock after asking some 300 people, there would be three conclusions: the enthusiasm is on the side of the voters of Marine Le Pen, almost everyone believes that Emmanuel Macron will win in the end and there are many undecided and abstentionists.
“I will vote for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and then, if there is no other choice, for Macron, because we must maintain the wall against the extreme right,” says a father who is shopping with his teenage daughter. “I still don’t know who I will vote for or if I will vote, but Macron will win because, despite his bad reputation, the polls are usually right,” says a young man. “It will be Marine, I’m sure, almost everyone around me plans to vote for her,” says a man with a happy face accompanied by his wife and her daughter. The wife prefers not to respond and points to her husband, as if delegating her opinions to him. “We haven’t voted yet,” explain four girls, “but Macron will win, everyone knows it.”
The reporter spends a good time asking quick questions of those who come and go through the shopping center on the outskirts of Châteaudun. The place is typical of the French province: a large esplanade with a supermarket, a DIY store, a cosmetics store, a gigantic bakery-patisserie, a McDonald’s, a Buffalo Grill and a gas station.
Only those who express their intention to vote for Marine Le Pen consider that these elections are “very important”. The conviction prevails that Macron will win, but nobody seems to be happy about it. Nobody brings up the war in Ukraine. Almost everyone complains about the rise in prices (French inflation is at 4.5% per year) and pensioners consider themselves mistreated. An example: “Do you think you can live with a pension of 1,000 euros?” asks a small and energetic old woman. In Châteaudun food is expensive, as in the rest of the country. Housing, on the other hand, is accessible: 130,000 euros are enough for a house with 1,000 meters of garden.
It remains to be seen whether Châteaudun will maintain its fame this time as the “mirror of France”: its electoral results are usually the same as in the country as a whole. As for the first round, there is little doubt. Macron and Le Pen will pass the cut, in that order according to the polls. There is still a lot of campaign left until the second round, on April 24. Perhaps the little interest shown by citizens in the last month will be transformed into more vivid feelings during the next two weeks.
Something relevant and very perceptible in Châteaudun is the change in the profile of far-right voters. Most of them do not feel far right or consider Marine Le Pen to be far right. They define her as “nationalist”, “pragmatic”, “brave”, “popular”, “different from all those technocrats”.
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Not far from the mall, some boys from an African family play basketball on a small street court. They are cousins, teenagers, they were born in Dreux (80 kilometers to the north) and now they live here. The question arises whether they or their families perceive racism or exclusionary attitudes in their daily lives. “Bah, maybe some older person, but in general nothing, no problem.” In the 1980s and 1990s socioeconomic and racial riots were frequent, due to business closures. Each protest ended with several or many cars set on fire. It has been more than 20 years since the last one burned.
For the first time in a week, sunlight reveals the charms of Châteaudun. The dunois (as the locals call themselves) walk along the banks of the river, bordered by lawns, under the imposing silhouette of the castle. The hunters go to the shooting range, much emptier since the military from the air base left. There are brave people on the terraces of Plaza 18 de Octubre. The city is still discreet, peaceful and completely devoid of nightlife (this weekend there is a little more life due to a wedding), but with the sun it seems something else.
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