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‘I asked for French citizenship so that I could vote, too,’ says Algeria-born musician

‘I asked for French citizenship so that I could vote, too,’ says Algeria-born musician

/ France


Issued on: 14/03/2022 – 15:33

Keen to vote in his first French presidential election, Algeria native Mohand Boughalem obtained French citizenship in December. © Association L’oreille presque parfaite

Mohand Boughalem became a citizen of France only months ago, in December. Poised to savour the opportunity to vote in his first French presidential election in April, the Algeria native had applied precisely for that privilege and to get involved, fully and completely, in French democratic life.

“I had already voted in Algeria, but it isn’t the same. An election there is a foregone conclusion because, let’s be honest, it’s a dictatorship,” the Marseille-based fifty-something with greying curls told FRANCE 24. “French democracy isn’t perfect but we can demonstrate and join a party without being afraid.”

When he settled in France in 2000, fleeing a bloody decade of conflict between the army and Islamists in Algeria that saw as many as 200,000 killed through the 1990s, Boughalem wasn’t especially seeking to become French. The politically engaged artist had attracted troublesome attention on the other side of the Mediterranean and was looking above all for stability, a safe haven and a job. “At that time, since I wasn’t managing to get my physical education and sports teaching degree recognised as equivalent here, I decided to earn my living from my passion, music,” the ever-smiling Boughalem recounted.

Now a professor of stringed instruments, Boughalem is also finally fully engaged in the political and community work in his city. “Before, I was only participating in meetings and political debates. I felt that I needed to go further in my political engagement,” he explained. “So I asked for French citizenship so that I could vote, too.”

The Covid-19 pandemic also played an important part in Boughalem’s reasoning. “It became clear with Covid-19 that we could be deprived of certain liberties. I’m not against the vaccine. But I think we should remain free to choose whether we get vaccinated or not. Restrictions on freedoms and the health pass accentuated my longing to participate in the democratic life of this country,” he explained.

Determined to properly carry out his new duty as a French citizen, Boughalem has been poring over the candidates’ platforms. “I follow politics closely. I read the newspapers, I watch reports on the candidates and listen to the analysis on the radio. Actually, politics and the presidential election are a big topic of conversation at work, at the café, with family,” he said.

And yet Boughalem, whose political sympathies lie to the left, admitted that he has yet to decide who will get his vote in the first round on April 10. “There are things that I like a lot about (far-leftist Jean-Luc) Mélenchon, but not everything, either,” the professor said, before adding he was also thinking about Socialist Party candidate Anne Hidalgo and, before she failed to make the official presidential ballot, independent leftist Christiane Taubira. The profusion of left-wing options for Boughalem’s first presidential vote is, to be sure, dizzying. He wants to take his time narrowing down the choices before casting his maiden French ballot. “I think I’ll decide a week before the first round. At that point, I should be seeing things more clearly,” he concluded.

This is the second installment in a FRANCE 24 series on first-time voters ahead of the 2022 French presidential election. The first is available here. This article has been translated from the original in French.

French presidential election © France 24

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