The right to vote will accompany French abroad, wherever they go
Soon, French citizens living abroad will use their right to vote like they are carrying their passport. In June 2012, for the first time, over 2 million French citizens residing outside France will get to elect their own Members of Parliament and be represented in the French National Assembly. Following a reform of the Constitution in 2008 and in line with other countries such as Portugal and Italy, 11 new constituencies have been created across the globe, 6 of which are in Europe. This is in addition to the 12 expatriate seats already reserved for Senators in the upper chamber, thereby completing and achieving full political representation for French nationals who live abroad.
This change was carefully weighed and calculated by the French conservatives, with President Nicolas Sarkozy hoping to reinforce his majority in parliament with non-resident electors. In response, the Socialist Party, in its determination to prove him wrong, last year initiated a democratic selection of its candidates, and Socialist candidates are now actively campaigning throughout the world.
Why might French people living abroad want to be represented in the French Parliament? Politics is adapting to 21st century realities: living abroad -be it by choice, by coincidence or owing to the vagarities of life- is experienced by an increasing number of citizens, especially in Europe. However, these citizens are still denied the right to vote in their host country. With a voice in Parliament, they are formally entitled to have a say in the political system. They have power over the significant budget covering the activity of the French State throughout the world, and influence decisions regarding issues of direct concern to them: education, social protection, arrival and return, actions of French consulates, research, culture and language, economics and investments etc. Conversely, it is a way to open France’s national political debate and feed it with foreign models and experiences.
In France, the Right has considered, for instance, suppressing dual nationality in an attempt to seduce the most conservative voters. A dual national myself, I would, as an elected MP, strongly stand up for the defence of diversity and plural identification with nations. I am proud to have been chosen by my fellow party members to stand for the election in the 3rd constituency covering Northern Europe (Ireland, United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania). At the heart of my commitment are the struggles for fairer justice, stronger solidarity, greater respect for human rights and civil liberties, sustainable growth mindful of environmental concerns, and an economy led by entrepreneurship and creativity. And with my campaign team, we are convinced that victory is within reach: with only 142 votes separating the two run-off candidates (Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal) in the second round of the last presidential elections, the Northern Europe constituency is likely to be one of the most marginal seats in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, we will be handing out leaflets this evening to encourage our compatriots celebrating Bastille Day to register to vote before the 31st of December 2011 deadline (Register here).
Is today Nicolas Sarkozy’s last 14th July as President of France?
Vive la République and happy Bastille Day!
This is an exclusive article for Next Europe
|Axelle Lemaire is a 36-year-old French woman who lives in London with her two children and works at the House of Commons. She chairs the London branch of the French Socialist Party, the main opposition party in France. She has been selected by her peers to stand in the French general elections next year, in the newly created constituency for Northern Europe.
Axelle’s website will be launched shortly – www.axellelemaire.eu