Maghreb's French residents vote left in the EU election over Gaza

Maghreb's French residents vote left in the EU election over Gaza
LFI's victory in Morocco seems unaffected by the past positions of Manon Aubry, the leader of their list, on Rabat's politics and the Western Sahara case.
4 min read
14 June, 2024
Rima Hassan, Manon Aubry and Sebastien Delogu hold a large Palestinian flag during the last meeting of the France LFI campaign for the European elections, in Lyon, France, on 6 June 2024. [Getty]

In the Maghreb, French residents largely voted for the left in the recent European elections, breaking away from their past timid support for right-wing parties. Experts say the Gaza war played a key role.

Unlike those living in France—where the Rassemblement National (RN) came first in more than 90% of the communes—French voters in the Maghreb mostly turned to La France Insoumise (LFI), the party of Morocco-born Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

With nearly 80,000 French nationals on its soil, Morocco is the leading host country for the French community in Africa, according to estimates from the French embassy in Morocco. Nearly 53,800 are registered with the consular records and 38,380 are on the electoral rolls.

The list of LFI, led by former OXFAM officer Manon Aubry, captured more than 38% of the approximately 9,000 votes cast. It came first in four of the six consular cities in the kingdom, including Rabat and Casablanca, where the number of French voters is the highest. LFI also came first in Tunisia, Algeria, and Mauritania.

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The Gaza effect and Rima Hassan effect

"Throughout the region, LFI scored big because of their outspoken position on the Palestinian cause," analyses Abdelghani Moumni, an Associate professor at Sciences Po in France, referring to what he deems the "Gaza effect."

The previous European election results for La France Insoumise support this take. In 2019, LFI barely reached 10% in Morocco, finishing third and trailing far behind La République en Marche (LRM, now Renaissance, President Macron's party) and Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (EELV).

Since the start of Israel's war on Gaza, the largest socialist party in France has not shied away from condemning the Israeli genocide and protesting for an immediate ceasefire in the besieged strip. The party's MP Sébastien Delogu was recently suspended from Parliament for brandishing the Palestinian flag inside the building.

While it's unlikely for those who once supported right-wing parties to suddenly turn left, the Gaza war has encouraged more non-voters and swing voters to take action this year and vote for Mélenchon's party. In past years, many opted for a "useful vote," choosing centrist parties like Macron’s to block the far-right from gaining power.

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"Last elections, I voted for Macron's party because it was a rational choice to block Le Pen and Zemmour (right-wing). But Macron's group is becoming more far-right day by day. His lack of action on the Gaza war speaks louder than his fake promises ever could," said Paul, a 54-year-old French resident in Casablanca.

The personality of Rima Hassan, a Palestinian-French candidate for LFI, has also played a key role in LFI's victory in the Maghreb. Her eloquent speeches, inspiring story, and engagement with voters through social media and protests have drawn more supporters to the party, who have been intimidated in the past by Mélenchon’s often aggressive and problematic statements.

"I have never been active in politics… But it's refreshing to see young and inspiring politicians like Rima Hassan… Amid the ongoing genocide, the least we can do is vote for someone who stands for Palestinians' rights," said Marine, a 62-year-old French resident in Rabat.

Rima Hassan was elected into the European Parliament on Sunday, 9 June, representing the LFI party.

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France's Left and Western Sahara

Nevertheless, LFI's victory in Morocco seems unaffected by the past positions of Manon Aubry, the leader of their list, on Rabat's politics.

At the beginning of 2023, Manon supported two "anti-Morocco" resolutions of the European Parliament as deemed by Moroccan media at the time: one called for respect for press freedom in Morocco, and the other denounced Rabat's supposed attempts to influence MEPs.

Like other LFI leaders, such as Mathilde Panot, Manon has also repeatedly declared her support for Western Sahara's independence, which Morocco considers part of its territory. 

Mélenchon, however, an admirer of the Moroccan monarchy, supports Rabat's sovereignty over the territory.

Despite this, far-right parties still hold sway over some French residents in the Maghreb, notably in Marrakech and Agadir, where the majority of voters opted for the RN, Jordan Bardella and Marine Le Pen's party. RN advocates for stricter immigration and deportation policies—a questionable choice from the Maghreb's French residents, who also classify as migrants.