French voters in Australia buck turnout trend

French people living in Australia turned out in force to have their say on France’s next president, with the number of those casting their vote up by 50 per cent on the last election five years ago.

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Thousands lined up – some for hours – to have their say in the first round of polling, with queues snaking down streets and around blocks leading up to polling booths.

The French Ambassador to Australia Christophe Lecourtier said the huge turnout showed just how important this election was.

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“It is, for the French, the most important political appointment for our democracy,” he told SBS News.

“And what is amazing is that the French that live in Australia have been voting, I mean there have been very, very many and much more than expected, which means that they’re pretty much committed to exercising their rights.

“It was quite unexpected – and when we look at the figures we saw that the participation has increased by 50 per cent compared to the previous elections in 2012 for the current president.

“So that shows that there were many more French living in Australia that have decided that this election was so important that they had to come to the polling stations.”

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The figures for French voters in Australia bucked the trend of the voting turnout in France, where fewer people participated in this election than in 2012.

France’s interior ministry said 78.69 per cent of France’s 47 million registered voters participated this year, down from more than 80 per cent in 2012.

Mr Lecourtier said even more French nationals living in Australia could turn out for the second and final poll on May 7.

“We had exactly the same number of polling stations than in 2012, because the number of electors has just only slightly increased,” he said.

“But what has pretty much increased is the number of people who have decided that they really needed, they really wanted to come to the polling station yesterday.”

The ambassador said the embassy was working to improve how the next round of voting would be organised, so the queues would be shorter.

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“We hope to be able to manage in a better way the number of French that will come on the 7th of May, because we expect as many as yesterday to come and maybe even more, taking into the account the importance of that election,” Mr Lecourtier said.

Voters in Australia are eagerly awaiting the final poll which will determine whether Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen will be the next President.

“I don’t think anyone is really surprised or even worried. She (Le Pen) is not going to make it. It’s sad that she made it to the second round but no one can say that it is a surprise,” said Margaux Pinson, who lives in Sydney.

Ms Pinson was one of many who queued for hours to cast their vote.

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“It was a bit nice to see all the French people. There are actually a lot of French people in Sydney, I was really surprised and I think everyone in the line was very surprised as well,” Ms Pinson said.

Karolina Rouvier, 20, voted in Melbourne and had a similar experience.

“There were so many people so I decided to come back later. So I came back at 6.30pm and there were so many people still, so I think I waited for two hours to vote at the election,” Ms Rouvier said.

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