Saturday, May 05, 2007

French expats go to polls a day early.

Tomorrow, voters in metropolitan France will go to the polls to choose a new leader in the second round of a hotly-contested presidential election. The two candidates - Nicolas Sarkozy of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement and Ségolène Royal of the Socialist Party - differ dramatically in both style and substance and offer a clear choice to French voters. For a different perspective on the race, the New York Times spoke with some French expatriates who will be voting today - a day early - in Manhattan:

Jean Karoubi, a French hedge fund investor who has lived in New York since 1977, plans to spend much of today at home, "doing my due diligence," he says. He is going to read a ream or two of recent coverage of the French presidential campaign and, more, importantly, telephone a number of friends in Paris in search of insight.

"I will vote relatively late in the day," he said yesterday. "Right now, I'm very close between the two candidates. I'm having a tough time to figure out who to vote for. But I think I can get some inside information from some very plugged-in friends, particularly on the left side."

The final round of the presidential election in France will take place tomorrow. But this year, for the first time, voting is being allowed one day earlier for French citizens in the United States, to encourage them to show up at the polls. (In the past, by the time voters in America made their way to the booths, most of the results back home were known, and pulling a lever seemed futile.)

. . .

There are more than 18,000 French expatriates in the New York area registered to vote, which they may do at any of three places in Manhattan - the French consulate, the cultural services office of the French Embassy or Goethe House - all concentrated within a few blocks on Fifth Avenue, between 74th and 82nd Streets.

As articles in Le Monde and Le Figaro note, over one million French voters are eligible to participate in today's early vote. The Western Hemisphere is home to a considerable number of French expatriates - including around 74,000 in the United States, 46,000 in Canada (of whom 34,000 are concentrated around Montreal), and tens of thousands in Argentina and Brazil. The various French overseas territories count over 800,000 voters among them. 4,900 of these French voters live on Saint Pierre and Miquelon, which I point out only because most readers will probably be surprised to learn that France still has sovereignty over these two islands off the coast of Newfoundland.

French voters living abroad and in the overseas territories turned out in record numbers for the first round of this election, perhaps in part because they had an exciting race on their hands and in part because they would have the new experience of voting before returns from metropolitan France had been publicly announced. As the NYT's Eric Konigsberg notes, the first round also revealed some distinctive voting patterns among expatriate voters. For example, frontrunner Sarkozy won 30.7 percent overall in the first round but garnered 47.4 percent of the vote among expatriates in the Americas, and over 52 percent in New York. I'm not going to offer any analysis of my own - I have to get back to writing a term paper - so click here if you want to read more. AMDG.


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