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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: C’est l’âne qui vote?

by By Maurice Ulrich

Is the donkey the voter?

Translated by Virginie Lafage

Translated Monday 30 January 2006, by Virginie

Is the donkey the voter?

One man, one voice. Speaking from the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the troubles started two months ago, footballer Lilian Thuram, rap-artist Joey Starr, film-actor Jamel Debbouze amongst others have appealed to young people to register on the electoral roll in order to go beyond the current struggle and escape from a sort of self-exclusion.

Good for them! Stars with their feet on the ground. Singing, acting, performing magic with a football doesn’t mean you should remain indifferent and only appear at charity events.

The symbolic force of this initiative is also way of saying that everyone, man or woman, is political, since they cannot live separated from others or without contributing to the development with others to their housing, theircountry, their world, their destiny.

This goes to show that the right to vote has marked human history; to give it up it would discourage people to keep going.

In the beginning , the nation didn’t vote. For a long period, only rich people who had the right to vote. This was the “vote censitaire” (qualified voting rights) and to vote you needed to have money and property.

Thus in Visconti’s 1963 film "The Leopard", the rich and crafty politician Don Callogero explains to the farmers around him that they cannot vote, as they don’t have anything. Nevertheless, one man can - because he owns a donkey.

However someone in the adiuience calls out to Don Callogero: "So, the donkey is the voter!".

How can we accept that the vote belongs to all, and at the same the abstention of the reticent, the people who live in the suburbs and especially some young people. Is this a kind of re-emergence of the "vote censitaire", abolished in 1848 and replaced by the huge conquest of "semi-universal suffrage". Semi-universal indeed as women had to wait until 1945, almost 100 years late, despite several struggles to finally win the right to vote for themselves.

Among these struggles, the French Communist Party (PCF), put forward women candidates at elections during the 1930’s.

We see massive abstention, from the young people from the working-class, and begin to understand the reason why.

How would they find their identity clearly in a political system, a democratic operation and institutions that do not seem to be made for them? The system in fact appears to exclude them from work, everyday life, the chances of finding accommodation, being a member of society.

In Ancient Greece, there were the citizens and there were barbarians. The Minister of the Interior prefers using the term “rabble”, but isn’t it the same thing?

Those who believe that the role of the colonization was positive, forget, or pretend not to remember, that the colonized populations, precisely, didn’t vote.

How can we accept what many young French people have had to give up for their rights, if the oppression contibues as it was before?

This would certainly please a number of French people. We don’t want people with pracarious jobs and a who form a reserve of unemployed people be become real citizens.

When we want to lead young people from the age of 14 towards training, offering them special "new hiring" labour contracts, that will only become real jobs depending on the employer’s good will.

The initiative from Clichy-sous-Bois is not going to resolve everything . It takes its rightful place in all the struggles of the progressive left, its symbolic impact is significant.

It is an invitation to all French young people to rise up and say "We are the future, we are the nation!"

(1)- New French contract

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