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ELECTIONS

Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote

The British government said on Friday it will scrap the 15-year rule that had barred many British voters living abroad from casting a ballot in general elections back home.

Britain to allow ALL citizens living abroad the right to vote
Photo: AFP

The UK government said on Friday that the rule that has barred British nationals from voting if they have lived abroad for over 15 years, will be scrapped in time for the 2020 election.

The government published its intention to ditch the unpopular law, which Britons living abroad have long fought against, by publishing a policy statement titled “Democracy that works for everyone”.

“We believe that overseas electors contribute to British society and should be given that democratic right to vote,” the constitution minister Chris Skidmore said.

“We intend to give those overseas electors the chance to register quickly and securely so they will be able to register to vote in time of the 2020 election.”

 

Writing in The Telegraph newspaper Skidmore said: “Being British is about so much more than simply being resident in the UK.

“It doesn’t matter where they live, British citizens are still a part of British society, retaining strong cultural and social ties with their families at home and helping to build businesses abroad,” writes Skidmore.

“The decisions that are made on British shores impact our citizens around the world and indeed many plan to return to live here in the future,” he added.

The Conservative government had pledged to scrap the rule as a pre-election promise but many long-term expats living in the EU were left angered when it became clear the government would not push through the change before the crucial referendum.

Indeed the sentiment among many British nationals abroad on Friday was that the announcement had come too late.

“I would have been delighted. Just a few months ago I would have been ecstatic, but now, faced with the impending loss of my EU citizenship and associated rights, the triumph has lost some savour,” said The Local reader Yvonne Flavin.

Nevertheless those British citizens who had long campaigned against the injustice were happy at Friday’s announcement.

“This is great news,” says France-based Brian Cave. “We are nearly there. We shall vote at the next General Election. All those who have taken part in this long campaign will know that it was worth it and as we kept saying: ‘we will win because we are right’.

“Winston Churchill would have said: ‘This is not the end, but it could be the beginning of the end,'” said Cave.

The government will now draw up a bill which must be given the green light by parliament, but all being well all Britons abroad should be able to cast a vote in 2020. 

The next question is will they give Brits abroad our own MPs?

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ELECTIONS

Macron braces for local election blow as French voters stay away from polls

French voters abstained in their millions Sunday from a final round of municipal elections predicted to deal a blow to the party of President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron braces for local election blow as French voters stay away from polls

Amid persistent fears of coronavirus contagion, just over a third of voters had turned out by 5:00 pm, three hours before polling stations close, the interior ministry said.

The turnout rate of 34.67 percent was lower even than nine hours into the first round of voting on March 15 that was marked by a record 55-percent abstention rate.

Three polling agencies predicted participation would reach no more than 41 percent by the day's close, compared to 62.2 percent in 2014.

Polls opened for some 16.5 million eligible voters at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) in nearly 5,000 cities and towns where the first election round failed to yield a decisive outcome.

This represents about 15 percent of the country's municipal councils where power remains up for grabs, including the key cities of Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, and Strasbourg. 

The opening election round was held just as the COVID-19 pandemic was gaining deadly momentum, but the second phase, originally scheduled for March 22, was postponed after France went into lockdown.

A new date was set after the government's scientific council said it was possible to hold another round safely, but voters were required to wear face masks and urged to bring their own pens to lower the contamination risk. 

Many voters and election officials sported germ-blocking plastic visors, and plexiglass screens were erected between them at several polling stations, which also provided sanitising hand gel.

“If one can go shopping, why not go vote?” said an undeterred Martine Legros, 67, who cast her ballot in Dijon in eastern France.

High toll

Analysts expect the election to confirm that Macron's centrist Republic on the Move (LREM) party — founded by the president ahead of his 2017 election win — has failed to gain a strong foothold at local level.

The party made lacklustre showings in March — notably in Paris where Macron's candidate, former health minister Agnes Buzyn, came third.

“The problem is that the LREM is a new party that has no local roots and is struggling to impose itself as a (political) force,” analyst Jean Garrigues of the University of Orleans told AFP.

With a death toll approaching 30,000, France has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country went into lockdown on March 17, just two days after the first  round of municipal voting.

Most restrictions have now been eased.

Cabinet reshuffle? 

During the outbreak, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe — an unshowy technocrat — saw his popularity rise to a level higher than that of Macron, whose policies have been the target of months of protests and strikes.

Macron's critics say he is a president of the rich and out of touch with ordinary people.

Paris is buzzing with speculation that a poor showing by the LREM on Sunday could see Macron reshuffle his cabinet, possibly axing Philippe who campaigned to be mayor of the Normandy port city of Le Havre.

Holding two executive posts is allowed under French law.

Firing Philippe would allow Macron “to claim he is delivering on his promise to ensure the 'second act' of his presidency takes note of failings revealed by his handling of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group risk consultancy.

With just 22 months to the next presidential election, Macron's main challenger is far-right leader Marine Le Pen of the National Rally.

Despite an abysmal performance in the last national elections, France's Socialists are expected Sunday to keep key regional centres, including Paris.

There will also be close attention on the Europe Ecology – The Greens party, which has its eye on the Alpine hub of Grenoble as well as Strasbourg and Lyon.

In Marseille, leftist Michele Rubirola hopes to take France's second city from the right after a quarter of a century of control.

For Le Pen's National Rally, the big prize would be Perpignan in the south, which could become the stage for the first far-right takeover of a French city of more than 100,000 inhabitants since 1995. 

The only region of France not voting Sunday is the overseas territory of Guiana in South America, where the pandemic is deemed too active to open polling stations.

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