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Europe

Britain's French expatriates turn out to vote en masse

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-05-06

Many of the 70,000 registered French voters living in Britain turned out to cast ballots in France's presidential run-off on Sunday, with 100-metre-long lines forming in London, known as France's "sixth city" because of its large French population.

AFP - French nationals in Britain flocked to voting centres Sunday to cast their ballots for president, with long lines forming in London, dubbed France's sixth city because of its large expatriate population.

There are more than 70,000 French nationals on the consular electoral list in Britain, with two polling stations in London as well as about a dozen cities including Birmingham, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Many people turned out as soon as the centres opened at 0700 GMT to avoid a repeat of the situation in the first round of the contest, when there were queues of up to three hours to vote in London.

Still, a line around 100 metres (yards) long stretched from the Charles-de-Gaulle French secondary school in southwest London; while at a college in north London voters turned out with thermos flasks and cups of tea to brave the cold.

"This time, I got up early," said Nadege Galle, a 33-year-old chemist, saying that in the first round she came in the afternoon and had to wait an hour in the rain. This time it took just half an hour for her to cast her vote.

French officials took steps to reduce queues for the second round including closing voting centres an hour later at 1800 GMT, opening two extra ballot boxes at the French school and adding extra officials, most of whom are volunteers.

"It's gone much better" than in the first round, said Olivier Bertin, a Green candidate in legislative elections, who was queuing at the school. "I came at around the same time last time and and waited two hours."

An estimated 300,000 to 350,000 French nationals live in London out of the city's total population of more than eight million, but only around a fifth are registered to vote in the presidential election in their homeland.

"I think the result will be close. I said to myself, the one time that my vote is going to count, why not come and vote?" said IT worker Sebastien Bastello.

The number of ballot boxes is double that in 2007 when conservative Nicolas Sarkozy won.

French nationals living in Canada, the United States and South America went to the polls Saturday, while voters in Australia and New Zealand did so on Sunday.

About 46 million people are eligible to vote in France on Sunday, with Socialist Francois Hollande the firm favourite despite signs that Sarkozy had narrowed the gap slightly in the closing straight.
 

Date created : 2012-05-06

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