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  • Less than two months before the first round, the presidential candidates, in the campaign, follow one another in Overseas.

  • For the political scientist, author and "decolonial" feminist activist, Françoise Vergès, the Overseas Territories are not really taken into account by the candidates, but are considered more as a "setting" conducive to making "great speeches" by speaking " like at the Elysée.

Anne Hidalgo in the West Indies, Jean-Luc Mélenchon in Reunion, Marine Le Pen in Mayotte… Like their predecessors, the candidates for the 2022 presidential elections have launched an assault on the Overseas Territories.

A seduction operation in this set of 12 regions and territories which represent more than one and a half million voters.

A reserve of 5% of votes which can make the difference at the polls in the event of a particularly close ballot in the second round.

A bonus that feeds the ambitions of the pretenders to the Élysée.

But if they usually remain courted during elections, the Ultramarines are less and less mobilized at the polls.

And the recent social movements in Overseas France have brought to the fore the gap that is widening between the State and these territories, which feel marginalized and left behind.

A complex report, less than two months before the presidential election, analyzed by political scientist, author and decolonial feminist activist, Françoise Vergès.

Since the end of December, we have been witnessing a parade of presidential candidates attacking the Overseas Territories, is this a must?

Has the vision of these territories changed?

The Overseas Territories have served as a political postcard for several years.

Previously, in the 1960s and 1970s, politicians went to these territories with a view to repression.

Then, everyone started to come, because it became an obligatory passage, with elements of language to speak like at the Élysée, like General de Gaulle and his "My god, my god how French you are!

» or even « it is the France of all interbreeding, of all latitudes », « it is the model of diversity ».

These elements of language are hollow with regard to what has been happening in Overseas France for years, even centuries.

This really is the time for the candidates to make some big speeches.

In the 1970s, overseas personalities such as Aimé Césaire and Paul Vergès intervened in political elections,

challenged the candidates.

From now on we are only a decoration.

This shows a regression in listening and speaking.

Is the Overseas theme really taken into account in the campaign?

No not at all.

Between the end of slavery and departmentalization, there was no truly thought-out reparation policy.

And there has since been an accumulation of exploitation of resources, monocultures of overseas territories (banana or sugar cane).

Not to mention the scandals that only harm these populations, such as chlordecone in the West Indies, the pollution of the gold industry in French Guiana, the nickel industry in New Caledonia, the consequences of nuclear tests in the Pacific or again the enormous problem of Mayotte, separated from its sister islands, created by Edouard Balladur.

The figures for the 21st century for the French state are absolutely terrible, with high rates of unemployment and even illiteracy.

There is a huge backwardness and still flagrant inequalities both in terms of the economy, education, health and there is also racism.

The picture is not glorious for France.

The big strikes of 2009 showed that there was a strengthening of dependence on imports from France, while there are countries alongside territories.

When I was little, in Reunion, there was still rice and meat that came from Madagascar, today this is no longer the case.

The Overseas Territories make France a great world and maritime power, allowing it to sit in major regional organizations (Pacific, Caribbean, South America), to have cultural interests,

So why is it so important for candidates to seduce these territories?

First of all, because they can bring votes, make a difference at the ballot box.

This was the case for Giscard d'Etaing.

Then, because it is part of electoral propaganda.

Also, because France is not granted sovereignty to these departments and communities.

Finally, it is difficult for the French to imagine the Republic without its Overseas Territories and the status of a great nation that this confers on it.

And are the Ultramarines interested in the campaign?

The abstention rate is usually higher in these regions than in France…

They became interested in it in the 60s and 70s, when there was more local mobilization.

There had been the convention of Morne-Rouge in 1971 in Martinique, which was to become a manifesto that most local parties and unions presented to national political parties.

There was still hope that our aspirations would be heard.

Then, there were great disappointments with a feeling of deep betrayal, that we can no longer expect anything from France.

In 2009, there had been the States General of the Overseas Territories and since then a succession of parliamentary reports and studies which show that in 2022, the situation has changed little.

So how do you want to trust?

Abstention continues to increase, because people are tired, no longer want to bother with politics or have founded associations.

The management of Covid-19 as well as the recent crises in the West Indies or the referendum in New Caledonia have highlighted the fracture between these territories – which feel neglected or despised – and the State, how can the future president he fix this?

Is it still fixable?

Yes, he could, provided he had a real will.

But the overseas population must also take up the issue and say what they want.

Unfortunately, when she speaks, she receives blows on the head like the sending of the Raid and the GIGN to Guadeloupe recently.

We need in our territories a real reflection on the future of our relations with the French State.

In ten years, with everything going on in the world, what do we want?

Are we going to continue like this?

We must also resituate ourselves in our respective regions, Pacific, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, because we are not Limousin or Auvergne.

There are a lot of possibilities and research.

Can this distrust of the state be useful to other candidates, especially those from extreme parties?

Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon had good scores in 2017.

One would think that in Overseas the extreme right would have its lowest score, but it is this party which wins the most votes.

What happened ?

I think people feel let down, not just by the government, but also by the local parties.

The young people of Martinique, who had brought down the statue of Schoelcher, denounced these elected officials who do not listen to them, who condemn them from the outset without any dialogue.

A gap has widened between elected officials and the people, giving way to depoliticization and even greater dependence on national parties.

It is for this reason that young people do not trust their political representatives.

There must be a new breath, a renewal and that the population reclaims the political thing.

Unemployment, departure of young people, cost of living… The concerns of overseas territories differ from those of France, do we need a better adapted policy?

Yes of course.

During the movements of 2009 in the West Indies, the population expressed their wishes, such as the end of the monoculture of bananas or sugar cane, the desire to guarantee employment to young people so that they remain in the territory.

Today, I think that the solutions must first be found locally, because even if the new president is more sensitive to overseas issues, there must be internal reflections.

Even if there is a common history and points of convergence between the overseas territories, which allow us to unite before the government, each island or region has its specificities.

Should we therefore redefine the statutes of the Overseas Territories?

Yes, but again, it's up to us to come up with the ones that suit us best.

We will not go from growing cane to growing carrots overnight.

Even if tomorrow we were to grant independence, we will have to repair the damaged floors.

What are the projects that the future president will have to tackle in Overseas?

Poverty, education and health.

These are important topics in everyday life.

All children coming into the world must have access to the best, we must put an end to racism, instead of coming up with yet another development program around tourism or sending delegations of parliamentarians and experts.

All it takes is a pandemic for everything to collapse, as we have seen.


Presidential 2022: Why overseas is a must for candidates


Presidential 2022: Marine Le Pen wants to give "a central place" to the Overseas

  • Overseas

  • West Indies

  • Elections

  • Presidential election 2022

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