Varzy (France) (AFP) - With its deserted streets, "For Sale" signs and weeds pushing through the pavement, the village of Varzy symbolises the plight of the depressed French hinterland, a key theme in the presidential race.
Standing at the counter in one of two bars left in the central village of around 1,300 people, truck driver Michel Cadour counts off the restaurants that have closed in recent years.
"There is nothing left here," the ruddy-faced 58-year-old said with a resigned air. "Young people don't want to start anything because there are no customers. Nowadays the only restaurant that opens in the evening is the kebab shop."
The fate of provincial towns and villages looms large over France's April 23-May 7 election, with voters in areas scarred by population decline and shrinking public services threatening to take revenge on mainstream politicians.
France's countryside, provincial towns and the area between town and country are estimated by geographer Christophe Guilluy to contain 60 percent of the population.
Traditionally rural areas in France have voted for candidates on the right, but many are now leaning towards the far-right.
For Pascal Perrineau, a political scientist at Sciences Po university, the French election, like the US vote which brought in President Donald Trump, has revealed a rift between rural communities and the cosmopolitan cities. ...