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French mayors remain popular despite rising threats

Local mayors and officials attend the funeral procession honouring late French mayor of Signes Jean-Mathieu Michel, in Signes, southern France, on August 9, 2019.
Local mayors and officials attend the funeral procession honouring late French mayor of Signes Jean-Mathieu Michel, in Signes, southern France, on August 9, 2019. GERARD JULIEN / AFP

While confidence in politicians is declining, in France, one political figure continues to attract praise: mayors. According to a Sunday poll, 83 percent of people prefer their local mayor to their MP. Ironically however, mayors are facing increasing abuse.

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For many French people, a mayor remains a person whom you can trust and can easily turn to for help.

That was revealed in an opinion poll Sunday by the weekly Journal du Dimanche paper.

In stark contrast, the public was less trusting of their MPs and senators, who received only 38 percent of positive views.

This disconnect is largely due to the perception that MPs in government and at the National Assembly work too long according to 70 percent of people questioned and that they earn too much, according to a further 66 percent.

Politicians are seen as having little in common with the people they represent.

Bridges and threats

Mayors on the other hand come up trumps, seen as effective bridges between local and central government.

The findings are nonetheless a little ironic, given that mayors are facing increasing verbal and physical abuse.

This week, the mayor of Signes in southern France was run over by a van after he stopped its occupants dumping rubble.

More than 65 percent of people questioned said that they would be in favour of tougher action against those who attack mayors.

In 2018, nearly 400 deputy mayors were victims of abuse according to the Journal du Dimanche.

Hate Republic

For François Baroin, president of the Association of French Mayors, those who "hate politicians, hate the French Republic," he told the paper.

He was speaking after the ruling Republic on the Move's offices were vandalised by Yellow Vest supporters Saturday during the 39th weekend of protests.

Forty-seven percent of people surveyed condemned the violence, while 44 percent said they understood where the anger was coming from and 9 percent said they approved it.

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