Shouldn’t EU citizens have right to vote in French presidential election?

Shouldn't citizens from Britain (they haven't left yet) and other EU countries who live and pay taxes in France be given the right to vote in French presidential election? There are reasons why it would make sense.

Shouldn't EU citizens have right to vote in French presidential election?
Photo: AFP

“I pay my taxes in France, so I should have the right to vote here.” It’s a common thought among EU expats living and working all over France from Paris to Provence and from Brittany to Burgundy.

Surely EU citizens (let's include the UK for the sake of argument and for the fact they haven't actually left yet) who lived in France for years should be allowed their say on whether the anti-EU, “French First', Marine Le Pen becomes the next president of France or not?

Or indeed whether the “French Maggie Thatcher” (François Fillon) or the “French Tony Blair” (Emmanuel Macron) become the head of state for that matter.

The current laws allow citizens from EU countries to vote in European and local elections but not national ones.

So Brits, Irish, Germans or Spanish plying their trades in France get a say over who the local mayor is but will have no influence over who will be France’s president nor who will stand in parliament.

Effectively that means they can have a say on whether the local primary school gets some new equipment but not on how much tax they pay, how many hours a week they work or when they can retire.

Granted, EU nationals (who have been here over five years) could go through the arduous process of applying for French nationality if they really wanted the right to vote, but is that really necessary?

Do you really need to become French to have get your say in how the country you call home will work in future?

'Freedom of movement should come with voting rights'

Surely there’s a way it can happen without all the paperwork, if there's a will.

The issue has been the result of campaigns in the past, notably the European Citizens’ Initiative “Let Me Vote” which pushed for EU citizens to get voting rights in national elections.

Philippe Cayla, the head of TV station Euronews and who founded Let Me Vote, told The Local previously “We have talked about EU Citizenship, but what does it mean to be an EU citizen if you live in a different country and you don’t have the same rights as everyone else? EU citizens in each country should be equal.

“You can’t have an open market and encourage freedom of movement without ensuring voting rights,” he added.

But it’s not just about EU citizenship, having the right to vote in the French elections would be invaluable in helping to boost integration and a sense of belonging in their adopted country.

The idea has some political in France support including from Jean-Christophe Lagarde the head of the centre right UDI party who is in favour of EU citizens being able to vote in the national parliamentary elections, but not the presidential one.

He told The Local previously that the current situation “can’t go on”.

“EU nationals in France are considered citizens at a local level, because they have the right to vote but at a regional or national level they are no longer citizens.

'Part time citizens in France'

“So they have a say in how primary schools are run, because that comes under the remit of a local mayor, but once their child goes to a collège or a lycée, these EU nationals have no say in what happens.

“They are only citizens in France from time to time, but it shouldn't work like that.”

Of course it shouldn't just be EU citizens living in France? Why not Americans or Chinese or Brits when the UK does leave the EU? The fact it would need to be reciprocal makes it easier in the EU in theory. But bilateral agreements could be possible.

But it's unlikely to be a popular idea in France where the subject of giving votes to foreigners even in local elections has been a thorny issue for decades now.

Many French people don’t seem to be sympathetic to the idea of paying taxes in a country should mean the right to vote.

And they are right. We can’t just be expected to get off the ferry, get a job and then go straight to the polling booth.

(The French parliament. Shouldn't we have a say on who is elected here?)

They French, probably more than other nationalities in Europe, would like us to have a stronger bond and even affinity with their country rather than just with their tax man before we can vote for the head of state.

Flavien Neuvy a right-wing French mayor, put it like this: “Paying taxes = right to vote? Really?

“This is absurd. Our republic works on the simple principle of a sovereign people. It is the French people who elect their representatives. Granting voting rights to foreigners is to abandon a part of that sovereignty. It is ill advised.”

Abandon sovereignty? Really? Or would extending voting rights simply enhance it while at the same time give EU citizens a greater stake in their new home and help bridge the gap between them and the locals?

Of course it’s unlikely to happen, given that it would be complicated and the move would need to be reciprocal. The French living in London or Berlin also deserve to vote in national elections.

But this is probably an unpopular idea at a time when Europe appears to be becoming more fractured than united.

There are also many foreign citizens living in France who would still prefer to be able to vote in their home country rather than in France.

While some still have that right, many British citizens who have been out of the country for 15 years or more (although the law is set to change) and all Irish expats do not.

Perhaps the only option really is to take French nationality.

But there are other ways it could work. (See link below)

Giving EU citizens right to vote in the French election: Seven ways it could work

Giving EU citizens right to vote in the French election: Seven ways it could work


Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”