The suburb of Paris has little desire for the two presidential candidates

The suburb of Paris has little desire for the two presidential candidates ...

  • Left-leaning voters face dilemma in French election runoff
  • Macron faces far right Le Pen in April 24 vote for presidency
  • Some consider Macron's politics as undesirable as Le Pen's

BOBIGNY, France, April 15 (Reuters) - Boxing coach Kab Thiam has voted in a French election twice: in 2002 to halt Jean-Marie Le Pen from running, and again last Sunday for the hard left's presidential candidate.

With his favourite Jean-Luc Melenchon on his side, the 39-year-old does not intend to vote in the April 24 runoff. He finds both aspirants, Emmanuel Macron, and Marine Le Pen, the daughter of Jean-Marie, dissatisfied.

Thiam said that "Macron and Le Pen share the same values" compared to sparring with a young boxer at the Mohamed Ali gym in Bobigny, an ethnically-diverse northern suburb of Paris.

In Bobigny, Melenchon is the subject of France's poorest administrative division Seine-Saint-Denis. His supporters in Paris and beyond will be crucial to deciding a tight-looking runoff.

Many, like Thiam, believe France has become increasingly Islamophobic as the Macron government has passed a variety of legislation and measures that, according to the country, aim to combat religious extremism and preserve national secular values.

There are also misconceptions that Macron is aloof from the masses, as he has adopted right-wing economic positions. This appears to be preventing another united front against the far right in recent polls, and it might result in the lowest turnout in decades.

A Reuters analysis of the first round results showed that he struggled to get enough support in low-income areas and will have a tough time reaching voters outside his base of educated, middle-class city dwellers.

Macron is expected to win by a narrow margin.

Macron claimed 79 percent of votes in Seine-Saint-Denis, which resulted in a runoff between the same candidates in 2017.

Despite his position as being on the right and favoring the wealthy, Macron is now polarizing, according to Jean-Yves Dormagen, a professor at the University of Montpellier.

"She has done everything to get her on the subject of identity, and she's also seen as acceptable and less racial."

'I LOOK AT MY POCKETS,' says the narrator.

Sami Mahdjoub, who brings his son to box at Thiam's gym, remembers how his parents would infiltrate Jean-Marie Le Pen to persuade him to behave well, declaring: "You will be deported."

He claims that the 38-year-old Franco-Algerian no longer perceives the Le Pen designation as a threat.

"I don't listen to what she says, but I look at what I have left in my pockets," Mahdjoub said. "With Le Pen, will it be better? I don't know."

Melenchon has advised his supporters not to vote for the far-right, but has not endorsed Macron. His party is holding an online vote on its position, with the outcome expected on Saturday.

Sabine Rubin, a Melenchon legislator in Seine-Saint-Denis, said she believed her desire to vote for Macron was manifested.

"They see public services disappear, their own purchasing power decline," she said. "The abandonment of these districts isn't new, but there's now a lot of disdain on the line."

Rubin cited previous remarks Macron made, including comments to one unemployed man that he had to "cross the road" and demand work.

Many believe Le Pen and her far-right Rassemblement National party are unpalatable.

Emma D'Angelo, an unemployed graduate from Bondy, cried during the first round of the campaign and considered burning her electoral card. Yet she has conceived of voting Macron.

"For students it's like picking between the plague and the cholera. We expect nothing from him, but we're going to vote for him because it's out of the question that Marine Le Pen wins," said D'Angelo, 22, who is applying for masters programs.

Carlos Tavares, another coach at the Mohamed Ali gym who talked about growing up in fear of Le Pen and far-right "skinheads," said he was shocked friends may withdraw their vote.

"It's like to vote blank or to abstain, whose game are we playing? It's Marine Le Pen, which we're talking about. It's aberrant and chilling for me," he said.

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