As London prepares for elections of its own this May, thousands of Londoners are preparing for four days of democratic duty starting this Sunday (April 10). They are London’s French community, who are voting for a president on April 10 and 24 and then for an MP on June 5 and 19. Unlike Londoners living in France who do not get their own MP in our Westminster parliament due to our rules, French people living abroad (including here in London) do get their own MP in the Paris parliament.
It means that on these four upcoming Sundays, French Londoners will make their way to one of five polling stations in the capital or to a sixth in Ashford, Kent (French Londoners with postcodes beginning with TN), to have their say. Due to France’s different voting system, unless the winner gets more than 50 per cent of each vote, a second vote happens with the top two winners two weeks later – hence why there are four election days planned to nominate two positions.
London is often referred to as the sixth most populous city of French people in the world (including by Macron himself), with estimates of around 300,000 French people living in the capital, this is expected to have declined since Brexit. There are currently 136,046 French people registered in the UK according to official figures, 116,592 of which are registered to vote in these elections. Almost all of them live in London and the South East given the region’s proximity to France. The disparity between the figures is due to different counting methods plus a number of people who do not register with the embassy. French students and dual-nationals who spend time in both countries can also be missed out in counting.
READ MORE: ‘I bought a London bus, drove it 1100 miles to rural France and now it’s the village restaurant’
(Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
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France is notorious for its bureaucracy, so it wasn’t a surprise to see long queues at polling stations during the last elections in 2017 but this time there will be five extra polling stations (59 in total) in the UK, including two extra in London, to ensure the days run smoother.
Voting is open between 8am and 7pm. The first exit polls are published at 7pm UK time on the day of each election, with the winning candidates being sworn in a few weeks after. The current centrist president Emmanuel Macron faces tough competition from far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, followed by ten other candidates including Sadiq Khan ally Anne Hildago, current Mayor of Paris. The final opinion polls put incumbent Macron at 27 per cent and rival Le Pen at 23 per cent, which would put them neck-and-neck at around 50 per cent in the second round. London’s votes alone could be enough to swing the results one way or the other.
In the race for the French Londoners MP, who also represents overseas French citizens in the rest of the UK plus in nine other countries in Northern Europe, the left-wing Socialist Party (roughly equivalent to Labour) had always won since the seat’s creation but were ousted by the Macron centrist Republic On The Move Party in 2017. The current MP Alexandre Holroyd is based in London. The winning MP will also have an “understudy” who will stand in for them if ever they are absent or unable to attend in-person votes.
On Sunday, several French pubs and bars in South Kensington are expected to show live coverage of the elections, which will also be able to watch from the UK in English and French in full on France 24 on TV or YouTube, with additional special coverage from UK broadcasters.
For full details of voter eligibility, locations and deadlines, check the French Embassy website here.
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