Keyword: Ariège

The endangered and ageing socialist 'principality' of the Ariège

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The Ariège département in southern France has a long history as a bastion of the Socialist Party. Over several decades, it has been the fiefdom of a clan of local politicians who are accused by opponents of ruling with a surprisingly monarchic set of practices: cronyism, the hoarding by a few of multiple posts of public office, political functions handed down to groomed successors, and intimidation of opponents.  In this, his third and final report from one of the poorest and least inhabited départements in France, Mathieu Magnaudeix investigates the inside workings of what might be likened to a socialist ‘principality’.

'It's becoming like Chicago': the slide into despair and fear of a once-thriving small French town

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La halle de Lavelanet, 11 h du matin, un jour de semaine. © M.M. La halle de Lavelanet, 11 h du matin, un jour de semaine. © M.M.

The once-prosperous textile-producing town of Lavelanet, at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains close to the Spanish border, has for decades suffered a decline that was sharply accentuated by the recent economic crisis. With dwindling public services and with a quarter of the active population unemployed, it is a mirror image of many towns across France where the loss of industrial activity has sapped the local social fabric. In this, the second of three reports from the southern département of the Ariège, Mathieu Magnaudeix finds that in Lavelanet, amid a pervading collective sense of abandonment, concern over law and order and fear of 'outsiders' dominate the conversation.

 

'I'll never vote socialist again': damning verdict from French voters in left-wing stronghold

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Lavelanet. Statue de Jaurès devant la mairie.  © M.M. Lavelanet. Statue de Jaurès devant la mairie. © M.M.

The Ariège département on the border with Spain is known as one of the most socialist areas of France, with voters regularly turning out in force to support candidates on the Left. But perhaps no more. Mediapart visited this part-rural, part-industrial area, one that has been ravaged by the economic crisis, to find that traditionally socialist voters are now split between grave doubts and anger towards their own party. In the first of three reports from the Ariège, Mathieu Magnaudeix discovers that the main beneficiary of this tide of discontent is likely to be the far-right Front national.