French election: cost of living crisis top of voters minds

French election: cost of living crisis top of voters minds
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By Euronews
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Soaring food and energy costs are a top concern for many French voters ahead of the first round of the country's presidential poll on Sunday. Euronews' Laurence Alexandrowicz reports.

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Like much of Europe, soaring food and energy costs are a top concern for many French voters ahead of the  first round of the country's presidential poll on Sunday. 

In the suburbs of Lyon, a so-called solidarity store sells products at a cheaper price, thanks to donations from individuals, food banks and supermarkets.

“Our suppliers enable us to source products 30 percent below the average market price,” manager Christine Vincent told Euronews:

Those who come into the shop are selected according to their financial means. Most are either elderly or single mothers, like Aurélie - a mother of three.

"I have an 8-month-old son and I pay €2 euros for baby food instead of €4 - I halve my bill," she said. 

Today we’ve ended up poor.

But the cost of living crisis in France is far from new and caused widespread demonstrations across France during 2018. 

Avelino, 66, says he joined France’s so-called 'Yellow Vest' protest movement in a bid to defend purchasing power.

"Today we’ve ended up poor. I have 1200 euros per month, and now I pay 600 euros for a 58 square metre flat. I’ve not been able to heat my home for five, six years. As a 'Gilet Jaune', I wanted to shake things up. I wanted things to change,” he argued. 

But has the purchasing power of the French really fallen? Euronews' Laurence Alexandrowicz put that question to economist Philippe Dessertine.

"From a statistical point of view, we are sure purchasing power has risen over the last 5 years. However, over the last few weeks or several months, we’ve experienced an extraordinary situation, totally different from the trend over the last few years. That’s to say a very strong resurgence in inflation, that’s completely perceptible for households,” Dessertine said. 

The recent sanctions against Russia, Europe’s leading oil and gas supplier, have only exacerbated the cost of fuel and other commodities that had already spiked because of the pandemic. 

Séverine Michaud, the Director of French haulage firm Transport Michaud, told Euronews the rise in fuel prices is having a major strain on the company.

"We are extremely worried for the future of the profession. Some hauliers will not survive. Today we pay more than €2 per litre for diesel. A truck consumes 31 litres per 100 kilometres - do the calculations.

The French government recently cut the cost of fuel by 18 cents a litre. It has also given six million households a €100 energy voucher to cope with spiraling energy costs. Whether that will have any bearing on the election result is unclear.

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