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Thousands of expats go up for election in France

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Thousands of expats go up for election in France
Officials prepare the voting lists for the first round of the local elections which takes place on Sunday. Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP
11:45 CET+01:00
France's upcoming local elections may seem like a very French affair, but in fact they will be anything but. Thousands of EU nationals are putting themselves up for election. Find out which country's citizens are top of the table.

When voters in France go to the polls on Sunday for the first round of local elections there will be plenty of names on the lists that might stand out at first glance.

According to figures released by the Ministry of the Interior last week, as many as 5,954 foreign nationals will be included on the voting lists.

In fact every country in the European union is represented apart from two – Malta and Estonia, France's Huffington Post reported.

And at the top of the podium for the number of citizens up for election this time round comes, perhaps unsurprisingly to some, the British– with 1,525 candidates spread across France and in particular throughout the country's 36,000 rural communes.

After the British come the Belgians, who have 1,186 nationals up for election and then in third place are the Portuguese with 1,045 citizens hoping to get elected onto local councils.

Germany has 523 potential councillors in France, Spain has 319, Italy 434 and Sweden 28.

Citizens from European countries are able to stand as candidates for local elections under a reciprocal European Union agreement. However they are not permitted to become mayor or even deputy mayor. To hold that role, EU nationals must take on French citizenship.

One of the 1,525 Brits standing for election is Tim Richardson, a wine grower or a “viticulturist” living in the Dordogne.

Richardson, who is on the electoral list in the town of Eymet, told The Local he wants to get involved in local life, rather than launch a career in French politics.

“At a local level, it has nothing to do with typical French politics. It's just everyday local life,” he said.

Richardson said the local French population welcome the involvement of foreigners in town affairs.

“In small towns everyone gets to know each other. I try to help out in local life whenever possible and to get involved. I haven’t heard any grumblings from French people,” he said.

In local elections in France, voters in most towns choose between voting lists, some of which are on a political party basis, rather than individual candidates. Those names on the winning list secure most of the seats on the local council. The head of the list, if elected, becomes mayor.

Foreign candidates on far right lists

In smaller towns, however, individual candidates are more likely to stand without being supported by a political party.

In 2014, candidates in France are standing on a number of party lists including the anti-immigration, anti-EU National Front party, led by Marine Le Pen.

In all around 80 foreign candidates are included on National Front lists. That’s despite Le Pen herself being against EU nationals even having the right to vote, let alone stand for election.

She has said previously that “only the French should be able to choose their representatives in France”.

In the Île-de-France region and Paris, a number of Portuguese and Spanish names are included on various electoral lists for the National Front.  Two Romanians and a Bulgarian also feature on the National Front's lists, which are put forward under the name "Rassemblement Bleu Marine" (United Blue Marine).

Le Pen dismissed claims of hypocrisy.

"Seeming as though the law is there, there is no reason to stop a few people taking advantage of it," she said, before stating that the rules will probably change "when Europe no longer exists".

If 5,954 sounds like a lot of candidates, the number of foreign nationals putting themselves up for election is just a smidgen of the overall total of candidates, which stands at 928,021.

In 2008, 1,397 foreigners were elected to local councils around the country, with Brits topping the table with 409 councillors, ahead of Belgians (323) and Portuguese (177).

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