French Citizens Abroad Give the Left An Edge in Legislative Elections

French citizens abroad, voting one week before the Metropolitan French, voted for the Left in seven of the eleven constituencies abroad. This confirms the previous positive prospects for the Left for the national legislative elections taking place on Sunday.

It was the first time that the French citizens living abroad could vote for the legislative elections and elect their own representative for their own constituency. In 2008, amidst several amendments to the French Constitution, eleven new constituencies were created, allowing more than a million of citizens living outside the French borders to vote this year for representation in the National Assembly. Before 2008, these citizens were only allowed representation in the Senate. There were 178 candidates running for those 11 seats.

The vote took place exactly a week before the first round of the legislative elections in France, and confirmed that the left parties could win the majority of votes next Sunday, on June 10th. However, the participation was relatively low: only thirteen to twenty-eight percent of these citizens voted, depending on the constituencies. This makes it difficult to use the results as an accurate measure of a probable outcome this Sunday.

However, the result came as a surprise, given that nine of the eleven constituencies supported Nicolas Sarkozy during the first round of the presidential elections in May by 54%.  This confirmed the criticism that had arose from the Left when the previous right-wing government under former President Sarkozy created the new constituencies. The Left parties accused the Sarkozy administration of designing the constituencies in a way that could only favor right-wing candidates.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, new French Prime Minister and member of the Parti Socialiste (PS), said that he remembered “the creation of those seats of representatives by the old UMP majority”. The UMP is Sarkozy’s center-right party, Union pour un Movement Populaire. The Prime Minister added, “they thought, without a doubt, that they could make an electoral stock of it,” a plan which clearly didn’t work as expected.

The right-wing candidates suffered in the election results from abroad, most likely from divisions within the Right. In some of the constituencies there were five or six candidates for different right-wing parties, fighting each other in the same election, which played into the success of the Left. For example, some local candidates refused step aside for candidates from Metropolitan France who were party players but did not have a constituency for which to run. However, for the second round, right-wing votes will probably focus on one or two candidates and a more favorable balance to the Right might be reestablished. As a consequence, the results of the second round remain highly uncertain, even if the Left got a clear and important advantage and will benefit from it.

For example, the first constituency, which includes Canada and the United States, is an unpredictable situation. The left-wing candidate for the PS, Corinne Narassiguin, won 39,65% of the votes while her main opponent, Frédéric Lefebvre of the UMP, Trade Minister under the Sarkozy government, gathered only 22,08% of the votes. However, the latter might benefit from the more support of other right-wing candidates in the first round. These candidates are now eliminated for the second round. It is necessary for a candidate to receive at least 1.5% of the vote out of the eligible voting population in order to continue to the second round. Lefebvre proposed a debate, broadcasted on TV, against his PS opponent, Corinne Narassiguin, which should “allow the French citizens in Canada and in the US to decide knowingly of their vote”. He also asserted that he was “ready to work with candidate from the Right and the Center” if necessary.

Contributing Reporting by Simon Buisson

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