Presidential candidates chase French expatriate vote
While the candidates for the forthcoming presidential election continue to campaign the length and breadth of French territory, they have not forgotten to canvas votes from the estimated 2.5 million French people who live abroad.
Through internet, Facebook and YouTube, the main contenders have sent messages and videos outlining the main points of their campaign and underlining the important role the expat community plays as an ambassador for France.
Team Sarkozy has sent out an internet message and a video reassuring French expatriats that his planned measure to target tax exiles was not aimed at those who had moved abroad to live and work.
Through a video featuring his spokeswoman Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, he reassured them of the difference between “expatriats” and “tax exiles”: “Expatriats are particularly powerful in spreading a positive image of France abroad and they are in no way concerned by this measure.”
In another email sent out on 12 March, Sarkozy reminded the expat community of the measures he took in 2007 to remove school fees for pupils attending French high-schools abroad.
Socialist François Hollande has taken a different tack with an outright attack on his right-wing rival in his messages sent to French people living abroad. He claims expats have suffered most from the worsening image of France during Sarkozy’s five years as president.
And he said he was particularly shocked by Interior Minister Claude Guéant’s decision to make it harder for foreign students to get visas to stay in France once their studies were completed.
Meanwhile, centrist candidate Francois Bayrou launched an simple appeal for French expatriats to join him in his plans for France’s future while emphasising expats represented an “opportunity for France”.
Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen hasn’t strayed far from her campaign themes. In an email to voters abroad, she explains how she wants to reform the system for obtaining French nationality and said expats would be free to decide if they wanted to accept the nationality of their adopted country while keeping French nationality.
The expat community can be a rich hunting ground for presidential candidates. In 2007, when Sarkozy was first elected, he gained 53,99 per cent of expat votes in the second round run-off against Ségolene Royal.
This time around the polls again favour Sarkozy in the first round with OpinionWay giving him 37 per cent of the vote, François Hollande, 27 per cent, François Bayrou, 13 per cent, far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, 8 per cent and Marine Le Pen, 7 per cent.
In the second round, Sarkozy would obtain 51 percent of the expat vote against 49 per cent for Hollande.