Yesterday was the first round of the 2012 legislative elections here in France. Turnout was low but the Socialist Party seems to have done well. For a quick analysis see Arun's take on the first results here. I was personally quite pleased by this headline in Le Monde this morning, Claude Guéant est en difficulté à Boulogne-Billancourt (Claude Guéant is in trouble in Boulogne-Billancourt).
But the results I really wanted to see were the votes cast by the Overseas French. 2012 is the first year that French expatriates can vote for legislative representatives in addition to the Senators that they've had for years. For this, the world outside France was split into 11 districts (geographical regions) and each French expatriate population in that district voted for the candidates of their choice the previous weekend. You read that correctly - the overseas French voted one week ahead of the regular legislative elections in France. In addition to that there were different dates for the vote in America versus "the rest of the world". I had no idea and apparently some of the French abroad didn't either. Turnout was abysmally low. There were other problems as well. The e-voting system was a disaster. Some folks didn't get their access credentials in time (or they didn't work) and others struggled with software incompatibilities and just gave up in frustration.
And finally according to Le Monde not all the French abroad were convinced of the interest or usefulness of voting in a country that they don't live in. Noémie G in Montreal said, "J'ai décidé de ne pas voter, car je trouve étrange de participer à une élection pour un pays où je ne vis pas. Il me semble beaucoup plus normal qu'un étranger puisse voter pour des élections locales les concernant." ("I decided to not vote because I find it strange to participate in an election in a country I don't live in. It seems to me that it would be much more appropriate if foreigners could vote in the local elections that concern them.")
I see her point and this is one I struggle with every time I fill out my absentee ballot for the U.S. My answer (which is based on hard experience) is simply this: you may be living in a foreign country but you are still French and France has an interest in you which ranges from genuine concern for your welfare to an interest in the contents of your bank accounts. The American system of citizenship-based taxation has its fans in France. Various political parties in the Hexagone seem intrigued by the idea that there is untapped expatriate wealth just sitting out there to be farmed for the benefit of the home country. Perhaps it will never come to that but I'd say it's better to take all the representation you can get now lest your home country politicians decide one day that you are the perfect pigeons to be plucked and your host country decides to help them out.
I'll end this post with the first-round results as reported by Le Monde for the 11 new overseas districts. The second round for the French abroad will take place Saturday June 16 2012 for the American continent and Sunday June 17 for the rest of the world.
US/Canada (District 1) - Corinne Narassiguin of the Socialist party with nearly 40% of the vote. UMP candidate, Frédéric Lefebvre, is a distant second.
Central and South America/Caribbean (District 2) - Sergio Coronado (EELV-PS) with almost 36%. Pascal Drouhaud of the UMP is in second place.
UK/Ireland/Scandinavia (District 3) - Axelle Lemaire, Socialist Party, with 30%. Emmanuelle Savarit, UMP, is in second place.
Benelux (District 4) - Philip Cordery, Socialist Party, ahead of Marie-Anne Montchamp, UMP.
Iberian Peninsula/Monaco (District 5) - Close vote between Laurence Sailliet (UMP) and Arnaud Leroy (Socialist Party).
Switzerland (District 6) - Another close vote between Claudine Schmid (UMP) and Nicole Castioni (Socialist Party)
Eastern and Central Europe/Balkans (District 7) - Pierre-Yves Le Borgn' of the Socialist Party way ahead of the UMP candidate.
Italy/Turkey/Cyprus/Israel (District 8) - Daphna Poznanski (Socialist Party) at 30% and safely ahead of Valérie Hoffenberg (UMP).
North and West Africa (District 9) - Pouria Amirshahi of the Socialist Party.
Africa and the Middle East (District 10) - Alain Marsaud (UMP) with 32% and Jean-Daniel Chaoui (Socialist Party) close behind at 29%.
Asia/Oceania (District 11) - Thierry Mariani (UMP) ahead of Marc Villard (Socialist Party).