In the aftermath of the second round of the presidential election, the strong surge in the vote for Marine Le Pen in the Overseas Territories, usually figures of a barrage against the far right, caused a strong reaction. Results that Myriam Cottias, historian and director of research at the CNRS, analyzes by a “superposition of elements”.
A “bamboo hit on the head“, this is the expression chosen by Myriam Cottias to express her feelings about the results of the second round of the presidential election in the Overseas Territories. Director of research at the CNRS, the historian deciphers the increase in the vote for Marine Le Pen and the strong abstention in the Overseas Territories, placing them next to multiple fractures in overseas societies, particularly in the West Indies, where, in Guadeloupe, the vote for the RN reached nearly 70% of the vote.
Overseas the 1st: These unprecedented results in the Overseas Territories surprised many observers. How do you analyze them?
Myriam Cottias: It’s a blow to the head, especially when you’re a historian of the West Indies and you work on slavery relations, what they produced in terms of racial categorization, discrimination and racism. Seeing Marine Le Pen come first in these departments from the history of slavery is incomprehensible. It’s a twist. It is to spit in the face of Aimé Césaire, author of Discourse on Colonialism, who had an anticolonialist political action with extremely strong writings. On Aimé Césaire, who in 2005 refused to receive Nicolas Sarkozy because of the law of February 23 on the positive role of colonization. So it’s being faced with a society that had taken firm positions and which suddenly lowers its arms, twirls and takes exactly the opposite position without having the capacity, and I measure the weight of this word, to reflect on what racism is.
In this vote, do the fake newsthe false information, which circulated enormously during the Covid crisis in these territories, had a weight?
The Overseas Territories are part of the world, so yes, phenomena that can be identified at a global level are relevant there. A lot of fake news has circulated there and it is extremely important because it is superimposed on political experiences which are very real. I am thinking here of chlordecone, which refers to fears linked to domination, that of being destroyed by the dominant, but also with effects that are strictly political. Because Emmanuel Macron, who is in no way responsible for the chlordecone crisis, was unable to provide precise answers to this question.
The fact that Emmanuel Macron can say that we are not entirely sure that prostate cancer or premature births are due to chlordecone may have appeared, with good reason, as rather light, casual answers, for in relation to a major health crisis that had to be taken seriously.Myriam Cottias, research director at the CNRS
If we put all this in context, the abstention rate is record in the Overseas Territories, because we are in a rejection of Emmanuel Macron’s policy, both on chlordecone but also on the vaccine, covers it -fire which lasted extremely long in the Overseas Territories. And we are also in this reversal concerning Marine Le Pen where we finally see that the political analyzes do not hold and have been lost among the population. Or finally, we can manage to see that some Martiniquans say that no, finally she is not racist when we have a discourse built around that at Marine Le Pen. The responsibility of the Caribbean political class must also be posed. What is happening now is the lack of political perspective for the Overseas Territories.
Can we speak of a successful “de-demonization” operation in the Overseas Territories?
We can clearly see that the policy of de-demonization worked in the French West Indies. Put things into perspective anyway. The 70% of voters in Guadeloupe relate to a participation of 47% of the population, so in absolute numbers, we are around 90,000 people who voted Marine Le Pen. But in a way, we are losing the memory of history. We are forgetting all the fights of those who preceded us, even the slaves themselves who fought for their rights and their freedom. We realize that, in a way, this political memory has been lost and is no longer able to oppose this demonization. As historians, this brings us back to our professional practices and our difficulty in conveying historical reasoning and knowledge that can be accepted and used to reflect on the present situation.