In the countryside in Banca, a small village in the very rural 4th district of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, the shepherd and candidate Julien Lassalle deliberately forgot his black beret, which reminds him a little too much of Jean, his media brother and outgoing deputy.

“I already had enough of an image of a half-candidate and a little brother”, smiles the brother of Jean Lassalle, the former presidential candidate and deputy for 20 years from this territory between Béarn and the Basque Country, to whom he will try to succeed.

Julien Lassalle, 62, shepherd in Lourdios-Ichère in the Aspe valley and candidate under the colors of the fraternal movement Résistons!, is however not completely new to politics.

He ran for regional elections in 2021, for the Rurality Movement, with a score of 13.6% in the department.

Since then, Jean Lassalle has announced his withdrawal and offered his younger brother to take over. “He was pretty sure to pass though!” Says the candidate.

This day in early June, he is campaigning in a remote valley of the Basque Country, the Aldudes Valley, between the mountains and neighboring Navarre. Here, Pamplona is much closer than Bayonne.

In Banca, a steep village of 320 souls, Julien Lassalle and his deputy Véronique Mongaston meet the mayor, Michel Oçafrain, and a few citizens.

The city councilor details the projects of his commune, affected like all the surrounding villages by the demographic decline. Economic and digital opening up, care for isolated seniors, road problems in an area regularly affected by violent weather: he puts everything on the table. Without forgetting the agricultural world, strangled by inflation.

In Urepel (280 inhabitants), the mayor Xole Aire holds the same speech. “The very big worry is the prices. I don’t know how we’re going to make a living from agriculture. People have a closed face.”

Since the start of the campaign, Julien Lassalle has met the mayors of 150 municipalities in his vast constituency. He expects to reach 230 by June 12. “By force, the shyness left me a little”, comments the candidate, far from the media outbursts of the big brother.

“Do you think it’s enough to meet the mayor and the elected officials?” Asks Martin Suquilbide, mayor of Aldudes, 310 inhabitants. “Yes, because the mayor in a small village is the old Facebook: when there is a death, everyone knows it before noon,” answers Julien.

“This sentence on Facebook is his idea!” Laughs the big brother, joined by AFP. The outgoing deputy nevertheless did not deprive himself of some advice.

“I suggested that he go to all the mayors and ask them about their difficulties.” The visits are fly. “People are pragmatic. We don’t really like fine words, but rather people on the ground who move around,” summarizes Xole Aire.

To be called Lassalle in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques is almost a label. “He is nice, he seems sincere, but his niche is still to say you knew Jean, here is his brother”, notes Egoitz Urrutikoetxea, candidate for the left abertzale (“patriot” in Basque).

Iñaki Echaniz, Nupes candidate, grew up with the children of the Lassalle brothers: “I appreciate Julien and Jean even if we don’t agree politically”.

Rather than “falling a Lassalle”, he devotes himself to “winning” his project. The absence of the media elder brother, even replaced by Julien, creates the opportunity to “tip this constituency to the left”, he believes.

The peasant electorate is a key to success, everyone knows it. Annick Trounday, candidate for the government majority, has “a lot of respect” for the two brothers, but this “farmer’s daughter, sister and wife” is aiming for the outgoing chair.

In 2017, the candidate of La République en Marche was in the lead in the first round, before losing to Jean Lassalle, re-elected with 52.7% of the vote.

08/06/2022 16:59:52 –          Banca (France) (AFP)          © 2022 AFP