French city re-elects mayor of Moroccan origin

French city re-elects mayor of Moroccan origin, marking win against far-right
2 min read
11 October, 2021
Ali Rabeh's victory was widely celebrated on social media amid heightened anti-Islam and anti-migration sentiments in France.
Rabeh defeated his opponents with 58 percent of the votes [Getty]

French-Moroccan Muslim politician Ali Rabeh has been re-elected as mayor of the French city of Trappes on Sunday, marking a symbolic win against rising far-right and right-wing populism in France.

Rabeh defeated his opponents with 58 percent of the votes, confirming his previous victory in the 2020 municipal elections, which had been cancelled following funding irregularities.

On Twitter, Rabeh celebrated his symbolic win against the "Zemmourized right-wing", referring to Eric Zemmour, a far-right polemist and likely candidate for the upcoming presidential election.

Trappes, which enjoys a large Muslim population, was at the heart of a nationwide controversy in February after Didier Lemaire, a philosophy teacher, published an open letter denouncing the radicalisation of its youth and the "Islamisation" of the city.

Then-mayor Rabeh came under national attention for speaking out against Lemaire to defend his city.

Both Lemaire and Rabeh received death threats from extremists, and were placed under police protection.

"I don't see Muslims or Catholics. I see French citizens. Here in Trappes we all live together and we love each other," Rabeh tweeted at the height of the controversy.

Meanwhile, right-wing politicians seized the dispute and singled out the city as a hotbed for radical Islam.

The city of Trappes, with a population of 32,000 residents, is located in the Yvelines department, in disenfranchised Parisian suburbs.

It is infamously known for having witnessed the departure of dozens of youth rallying Islamic State group [IS] at the height of the Syrian war.

In his win on Sunday, Rabeh had defeated an alliance led by Othman Nasrou, a French-Moroccan right-wing politician, seconded by the former left-wing mayor of Trappes, Guy Malandrin.

While the mayorship title holds little formal significance beyond the city itself, it sparked nationwide interest on social media, as a political thermometer for the upcoming 2022 presidential election.

Rabeh is a close ally of former socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon, largely defeated in the past presidential election with only 6 percent of votes.