French Roma Woman Sets Eyes on Senate

French Senate

Anina Ciuciu is not your typical candidate for the French Senate. For one, she is a twenty-seven year old woman, while the legislative body is three-quarters male and has an average age of sixty-four. For another, she is a Roma who was born in the city of Craiova, Romania and moved to France when she was seven.

And she has her work set out for her, too. Technically, she is not even up for election yet—the Green EEVs (or "les Verts," for short) have yet to finalize a list of candidates, and it is not clear if she will be on theirs. Especially since she is not even a member of the party.

Ciuciu was reluctant to even begin this process. “I didn’t believe in politics as a means to effect change," she confessed, citing her 2014 experience in government. Victor Ponta, then Prime Minister of Romania, had appointed her as a special adviser on issues for the Roma, which Ciuciu says that she "stopped as soon as I understood that it would change nothing for the people who are suffering."

But her fellow activists seemed excited about the idea of her running, and Ciuciu likes to think that this will inspire the downtrodden members of society who may not be interested in usual politics. "For them, it’s the potential for me to become their voice."

When she first moved to France via a refugee camp in Italy, she and her family were nearly expelled, but help from a schoolteacher allowed them to stay. Ciuciu thus cites expanding access to schools as a major goal of her campaign, along with ending police brutality and the current state of emergency that France has technically been under since the wave of terrorist attacks began in 2015.

Ciuciu is involved with the organizations Voice of the Roma and the May 16 Movement. The latter is a reference to the day in 1944 when the Roma rose up against their oppressors during the Holocaust; Ciuciu cites the current upswing in racist violence as another issue to fight during her political tenure.

The election, if Ciuciu qualifies, is September 24. 171 of the Senate's 348 seats will be up for grabs; terms are six years long, with elections to renew about half of them occurring every three years. France uses indirect universal suffrage, meaning an electoral college is involved in the process.

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