Tuesday 5th June 2012

French expats vote for their own MPs

French citizens who are living abroad will shortly be getting their own member of parliament who will be placed in situ to represent the interests of expatriates.

The new MPs will sit in parliament in Paris and will have the sole responsibility of representing the interests of French citizens who are resident in the eleven overseas constituencies, which include Spain and Portugal, East Africa, South America and North America. The decision to create new constituencies for the French abroad was taken by former president Nicolas Sarkozy, whose government passed legislation in 2008 to give them the right to elect their own members of parliament.

The 2012 legislative election has already commenced and Round One took place between the 23rd and the 29th May. Round Two is due to commence tomorrow, the 6th June and will continue until the 12th June. Those expatriates involved are permitted to participate by postal vote and over the Internet. It is believed that, of the estimated 2.5 million expatriate French citizens living overseas, more than 1 million have registered to participate in the parliamentary elections. Until now, these citizens have been able to have their say in the presidential elections but not in the législatives. Now, their dedicated member of parliament will be able to represent their concerns and interests as French citizens living abroad.

Talking to French newspaper The Local, one French expat who is currently living in Stockholm commented: “I think it is great that we will have a representative in the French parliament. I hope it will improve communication between Paris, the embassy and French people living here.”

However, not everyone is convinced. Talking to U.K. newspaper The Guardian, Philippe Marliere, professor of French and European politics at University College London, revealed that he was against the elections, which he believes bestows rights onto French expats that they should not have. Commenting on the practical and political grounds upon which he rejects the measures he said: “I decided to leave France. No one pushed me out. In terms of political rights and representation I have less of a say when it comes to deciding matters in France.

Not having the right to vote for the députés, I never found that shocking. Because, in a way, I'm politically outside of the national community ... When it comes to deciding on matters of taxation, you know, I'm not there; I don't pay my taxes there. In a way I can't be out of it and at the same time claim rights.”

While there have been members of parliament that represent French overseas territories for many years, this will mark the first time that French citizens living abroad will have their own political representation. One of the underlying motivations to the measures is to increase French expat’s participation in the elections, which has been waning in recent years.

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