French voters in Scotland look on as election battle heats up

Emmanuel Macron will contest the second round of French presidential voting on May 7. Picture: Thibault Camus/AP
Emmanuel Macron will contest the second round of French presidential voting on May 7. Picture: Thibault Camus/AP
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As France prepares for the second round of its presidential election on May 7, French voters living in Scotland have been following the dramatic campaign with bated breath.

As no candidate won a majority following the first round on April 23, a run-off election between the top two, Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! and Marine Le Pen of the Front National, is required.

Marine Le Pen said this week she was 'no longer the president of the National Front' but was instead a 'candidate for the French presidency' Picture: AP Photo/Michel Euler

Marine Le Pen said this week she was 'no longer the president of the National Front' but was instead a 'candidate for the French presidency' Picture: AP Photo/Michel Euler

It was the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic that a nominee of the traditional centre-left or centre-right parties did not make the final leg of the race to enter the Élysée Palace.

All French citizens, no matter where they live in the world, are entitled to take part in national elections. There are 3,787 in Scotland registered to vote, official figures reveal.

The French Consulate in Edinburgh has been busy in recent weeks issuing proxy votes to 500 nationals, mostly to those not registered here.

Consul general Emmanuel Cocher said there was around 5,000 French nationals registered as living in Scotland, but the real number was likely to be much higher.

“Most people who are staying for a year or less, such as students or seasonal workers, rarely register,” he said. “And we know we have a sizeable student and young worker population, so there could be several thousands more.”

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Regardless of their status, all are likely to have been gripped by the presidential campaign.

“It is an historical moment,” said Cécile Hascoët, who has lived in Edinburgh since 2008. “Since Nicolas Sarkozy (president until 2012), the traditional parties started to slowly implode. France has been looking for change for a long time.”

Hascoët, 41, originally from Brittany, believes Macron reflects this desire for something different.

“We are no longer right or left,” she saddened. “Macron is so new to the politics scene. I think he arrives at the right moment in time.

“The only explanation I can think of for the success of Le Pen is that a lot of French people are angry.

“It is scary to think that young people under 25 have voted Le Pen.

“Unemployment is a big problem, obviously, and neither the Socialist party or the Republican party have managed to solve this social issue.”

Loïc Montreuil moved to Edinburgh in 2014. He told The Scotsman that the last couple of months had been “tough” for French voters. “We realised that once again the Front National was getting stronger,” he said. “It’s scary.

“We also saw a difference in how the campaigns were managed. The population reacted more and the media looked deeply into the life of each candidates. They tried to find a piece of information that could be used against each of them.

“As a French citizen living abroad I was sad to see this dirty game of fake news and sensational articles.”

Like many French graduates, Montreuil, 28, moved to the UK from Normandy to find work. “I think we all want changes in France,” he added. “The economy needs a boost, we need to support people who can’t find a job or are retired.

“Over the last couple of years we have seen young people leaving the country because they can’t find a proper job, with a good salary. I came to the UK because I wanted to boost my career.

“I am very pleased to live in Scotland, however, I wish we had more opportunities in France. I hope our new government will help with that.”

For Hascoët, French voters have lost their “repère”. “It is no longer a stigma to vote for Le Pen,” she added. “France was always the country of the human rights and equality, and today many are voting for the exact opposite of what France stands for.”

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