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Les Républicains: don’t forget the French in London!
One after another, the candidates seeking selection in the centre-right’s primary elections are launching their campaigns. Politicians are travelling throughout France to meet their party’s members. But it does not mean that they are overlooking expats in London. Many of them have already come or are planning to come to the British capital to meet the French community.
When politicians cross the Channel
“French schools and French primary schools, the Alliance française in foreign countries, all of this is crucial for France influence. Thanks to them, French is still spoken in the rest of the world” Nicolas Sarkozy said on 30 May to the Assembly of French citizens abroad. Les Républicains’ President set the tone: expats should not be ignored.
The candidates for the primary elections all agree with him. Many of them have already come to London to meet the French community: François Fillon and Bruno Le Maire in February, Nadine Morano in May… Even if he is not officially a candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy also came to our side of the Channel for a public meeting on 23 March. Other meetings are planned for the next few months: Geoffroy Didier on 1 June, Frédéric Lefebvre on 13 June, Jaques Myard on 16 and Eric Woerth on 30 June will present their programme to Les Républicains’ party members. Last but not least, Alain Juppé will talk to the French in London on 4 July.
The political commitment of the French living in London
If candidates travel abroad, there is obviously a reason. Even if they live beyond the French borders, expats are stil interested in politics and want to know what is going on in their country. The candidates are supported by committees all around the world. Alain Juppé’s support committee in London claims to be the most active among the Mayor of Bordeaux’s supporters. A magazine has been published by the “juppéistes” in London, called “L’Appel”. It deals with the candidate and his programme for the presidential elections in 2017. “The aim of the magazine is to highlight the centre-right’s primary election", the President of Alain Juppé’s support committee in the UK, David Blanc, said."French expats should be aware of their responsibilities and vote.”
Candidates have their own social media. A Facebook group has been created, dedicated to Les Républicains, which is organising an active programme of meetings. Politicians are now really present on social media to attract young people. “We are asking for political renewal, Clémence Hautefort from the Jeunes avec Juppé (JaJ) UK committee, explains. We are dynamic and, as students, we have free time. We are the first to be affected by unemployment and we are getting involved in politics to help society.”
How can you vote?
To be able to vote on 20 and 27 November, you must be registered on the primary elections voting list. Then, you need to pay a €2 fee per round of election and sign the following sentence: “I agree with the centre-right's republican values and commit to help France’s recovery.”
The voting options are still not clear as the candidates do not agree with the way French expats should vote, between paper ballots and electronic vote. French expats in big cities, are likely to vote in a polling station with a paper ballot. Those living in more remote areas of the country should be able to vote on the Internet. But this decision has not gained favour with everybody.
Nicolas Sarkozy is for the paper ballot. In his opinion, if French expats are able to vote on the Internet while those living in France can only vote in a polling station, “equality would be broken, which goes against our constitutional principles.”
Most of the candidates are in favour of an electronic vote for French expats. If they only had the right to vote in polling stations, many of them would not participate. And, above all, some of them would live too far from the polling station. “I want an electronic vote for French citizens living abroad, in view of the distance or the danger”, Jean-François Copé said to the radio station France Info. Indeed, the French living in China or Canada would not have the right to vote, as foreign votes are prohibited in these countries. François Fillon thinks that “most of them would not vote” if they are not allowed to vote on the Internet.
A decision on voting methods should be made within the next few weeks.
Even if the French expats do not live within French borders, they are still interested in their country's politics and want to share their thoughts on what should be done. "We notice from abroad that things could work differently. There should not be a French fatalism. This is the message of hope and enthusiasm we want to share to our country," delegate of Les Républicains in Great Britain, Artus Galiay, says. "More than 50% of young people claimed they would leave France if they could. Therefore, we cannot say, as François Hollande does, that "this is getting better". We want our future President to make the significant structural reforms our country needs."
To be continued...