Department of Yonne
From our special correspondent
The small meeting room is plunged into darkness. A slideshow is projected on a wall where we see a computer, a smartphone, a modem or even a pole supporting fiber optic cables. It is titled: “How to connect to the Internet”. The audience, around fifteen people with salt and pepper hair, computer unfolded on the table or tablet in hand, listen attentively to the explanations. Maud and Louisette, two neighbors in their sixties, are participating for the first time in this training in digital tools, provided by an association of volunteers at the France services house in Charny-Orée-de-Puisaye, in Yonne.
Access to the Internet has become essential in this rural area, to make an appointment with the doctor, renew your papers or pay your taxes, because the counters, and the humans behind them, have disappeared. “Everything is automatic today, even the checkouts in the stores,” laments Louisette, a retired care worker. She and Maud, who have lived all their lives in Puisaye, tell the story of a rural world in full evolution. Town halls, post offices, schools have closed, doctors have left, businesses are closing their doors. “There aren’t even bakeries anymore, we have bread boxes,” Maud grumbles. “There is no more life, we no longer speak to anyone, we no longer know each other,” regrets this former office worker. To work, take care of yourself, do your shopping, the car is essential. “My doctor is 35 kilometers from my home,” explains Maurice, 76, who came to the training with the computer offered by his children. To see a specialist, he must go “to Orléans or Paris”. “Travel is what punctuates the lives of people in the countryside. » So “the prices of fuel, or the green speeches on electricity, that annoys…”.
Added to these difficulties are criticisms aimed at the agricultural world. “The image of agriculture is distorted because we only talk about the problems,” regrets Brice Veaulin, a farmer based in Rogny-les-Sept-Écluses, a town in the far west of Yonne, bordering Loiret. . “Farmers have difficulty understanding what society expects of them,” explains this cereal grower who cultivates “rapeseed, wheat, barley, corn, sunflower and a little soya” on 240 hectares. Passionate about his job, he deplores that it attracts less and less. And points to “the regulations which are tightening from year to year”, “the contradictory instructions”, as on glyphosate, denouncing the “impunity” of associations of environmental activists such as Les Soulèvements de la terre. “We allow ZADs to develop, like in Notre-Dame-des-Landes or Sivens, and we are drowning in increasingly burdensome regulations. It’s tiring,” breathes the forty-year-old. As a result, “tension is rising” in the agricultural sector, he warns. “There is an ambient gloom,” agrees Damien Brayotel, president of the departmental federation of farmers’ unions in Yonne. He, who farms 125 hectares, also denounces the European Union and its “juxtapositions of standards”, as well as “political ecology, which is opposed to farmers who are nevertheless actors of ecology on a daily basis”.
Willy Schraen, president of the National Hunters’ Federation, has been making these speeches for several years. With hunting lobbyist Thierry Coste, they now want to bring them into the political sphere. The two men will present a list for the European elections in June 2024. Called the “Rural Alliance”, it will bring together various personalities to represent “all facets of the rural world” and will be officially launched on December 6. The stated objective is to defend “rurality”, its values, its traditions, against two adversaries: “punitive ecology” and “European standards”. “What we want to defend is a French way of life, these people who we don’t hear, who are fed up,” summarizes Willy Schraen.
In Yonne, this fed-up was expressed very clearly in 2022. Icaunais voters placed Marine Le Pen at the head of the first and second rounds of the presidential election (31.25%, then 51. 59% of the votes). In the legislative elections, they abstained massively (more than 50% in the three constituencies), and the voters sent two National Rally deputies to the National Assembly. Willy Schraen has more modest ambitions. He plans to “make at least 3% to be reimbursed, maybe 5% to have elected officials”. In 1999, the Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions (CPNT) party obtained 6.77% of the votes and sent six elected officials to Brussels, who sat there until 2004. Enough to lower the RN’s score, widely given leading in the polls? “No list worries us,” assures Julien Odoul, RN deputy for the 3rd constituency of Yonne, “especially not this supposedly rural list whose members supported Emmanuel Macron,” he adds in reference to the support of Thierry Coste in head of state, in 2022. “It’s a political scam and voters must not be fooled,” attacks the elected official.
“Ruralism is not the extreme right,” assures Olivier Lecas, president of the Yonne hunters’ federation. “Today, people are voting RN because they do not feel understood by the traditional parties, and they no longer trust Macron. The RN sounds fairer than the others,” believes the septuagenarian. He predicts that the “Willy” list will “take votes from them”. Jamilah Habsaoui, mayor of Avallon, the main town in the south of Yonne, thinks that “part of the rural population will be sensitive” to his arguments, but regrets “that we are still pitting rural and urban against each other” who “cannot live without the other”. This left-wing elected official says she “does not understand the results of the RN” in the department, which she associates with the “discourse of fear”, and in particular “the fear of foreigners”.
Maud and Louisette, whose digital training is coming to an end, agree. “There is a rejection of all the other candidates, and, it must be said, there is also a rejection of difference,” says Louisette. “The word racism is a bit strong, but in certain areas, we are not far from it,” admits Maud. Alexa, a young volunteer from the association, intervenes. “People no longer meet each other because of the disappearance of public services and businesses, and that creates withdrawal. It’s because of fear that people fall into extremes,” she adds. Optimistic, this civil servant who arrived in Puisaye twenty years ago assures that “if everyone makes the effort to get to know each other, cohabitation between people of immigrant background, hunters, ecologists and farmers is entirely made possible.”