In Auvergne, the outgoing communist deputy André Chassaigne had to fight hard for his re-election

In Auvergne, the outgoing communist deputy André Chassaigne had to fight hard for his re-election

Elected since 2002, André Chassaigne (PC) had to fight hard for his re-election in Puy-de-Dôme. His connection with his territory allowed him to contain a conquering RN. Report.

This Thursday, July 4, 2024, in the Auvergne town of Pont-du-Château, a small meat and cheese market opens on the town hall square. In the middle of the campaign for the legislative elections in the fifth constituency of Puy-de-Dôme, the outgoing deputy André Chassaigne, from the New Popular Front, takes the opportunity to chat with the residents. In this period between the two rounds of the legislative elections, a neck-and-neck duel is being played out between the communist candidate and Brigitte Carletto, an executive assistant in a Clermont company, who flies the colors of the National Rally.

“Isn’t that your son that I had at summer camp when I was young?” asks André Chassaigne to a passerby. A former teacher and member of parliament elected to the National Assembly under the Communist Party label since 2002, the man who calls himself “the workhorse” is known throughout Puy-de-Dôme. Some onlookers, familiar with the character with the moustache, greet him by calling him “Dédé. Others, more distant, cheer up when André Chassaigne begins to review family trees and local institutions to identify mutual acquaintances. “Ah, you worked at the Michelin factory? My father did too, he spent his entire career there!”

In his constituency, the MP has always been used to tackling all kinds of issues. He regularly meets with parents looking for an internship for their child, farmers who have not received their bonus, etc. If a case needs to be moved forward, he prepares and validates letters addressed to the Services and Payment Agency or the Departmental Directorate of Territories and the Sea. “People are not aware that all this local work could end,” sighs André Chassaigne. “They will vote RN with stars in their eyes, even if they do not know the party and its candidates well. They find themselves caught up in the national issue.”

A selection of accuracy

On June 30, the first round of the legislative elections, the communist deputy obtained 37.77% of the vote, just ahead of Brigitte Carletto and her 37.02%. He who had been re-elected hands down for twenty years now understands that local roots and proximity to residents may not be enough. Even against a rival who has never won a mandate and whose name means nothing to a good number of residents. The strength of the RN “brand”, and even more so, of the “Jordan Bardella” brand (its president) seems to weigh as much as the field work. “Brigitte Carletto? No, I don’t really know who she is, but when I vote, I put Bardella in the envelope”, says Jean-Pierre, seated at a table in a bistro in Lezoux, near Clermont-Ferrand. This operations manager in a transport company has had enough of the traditional parties. He doesn’t know the RN’s program; what he wants is radical change. “Before, I was on the moderate left and voted for Chassaigne in every election. I love the character, except that communism isn’t going to solve our problems! In politics, we need change, we need things to explode, like May 1968!” For others, it’s the feeling of a declining and deindustrialized region that pushes them to vote RN. In front of the Intermarché in the town of Courpière, Patrick, a retiree, rages: “I’ve been voting National Rally for two years, because I think Chassaigne hasn’t done enough for the region. All our factories are closing one after the other! And there’s more and more insecurity in Thiers.”

Disillusioned voters

There are also those who plan to stay home on election day because, no matter what André Chassaigne does, they no longer believe in politics. Like Rémy, who we met at the Lezoux bistro alongside his friend Jean-Pierre. He too appreciates the MP’s good nature. “I took part in the yellow vest movement on the Lezoux roundabouts, Dédé came to see us, asked us what we expected from politicians and invited us to his office in Ambert. And then he talked about the yellow vests in the Assembly! But he’s the only one interested in us.”

In Thiers, some shopkeepers are worried about the prospect of a victory for the RN candidate. The town built on a hillside, known for its knife craftsmanship, still has several century-old cutlery shops. “The profession of cutlers is little known and, personally, I am happy that Dédé is taking our cause to the Assembly,” says David Ponson, manager and craftsman of a cutlery shop. “People make fun of his political label. I would not be reassured if he left…” The craftsman can breathe. On July 7, André Chassaigne was finally re-elected with 55.27% of the vote.

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