French cast vote in Singapore for president, with Emmanuel Macron their favourite

A French voter walking past the campaign posters of Marine Le Pen (left) and Emmanuel Macron at the French Embassy in Singapore, on May 7, 2017.
A French voter walking past the campaign posters of Marine Le Pen (left) and Emmanuel Macron at the French Embassy in Singapore, on May 7, 2017. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
French citizens queueing up to vote at the French Embassy in Singapore, on May 7, 2017.
French citizens queueing up to vote at the French Embassy in Singapore, on May 7, 2017. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - French citizens living in Singapore cast their final votes for president on Sunday (May 7) in what they said was a crucial election for the future of their country.

All 12 people The Straits Times spoke to outside the French Embassy said they had voted for centrist Emmanuel Macron over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the run-off election after none of the 11 candidates in the first round of voting on April 23 got more than 50 per cent of the vote needed.

Mr Macron, a former investment banker and economy minister, is favoured to win, with the latest polls showing his lead at about 62 per cent.

If elected, Mr Macron, 39, would become the youngest president in French history.

Ms Christiane Joussemet, 58, was one of the first to cast her vote when the polls opened at 8am.

Like several others, she is worried that Ms Le Pen, 48, may end up with a surprise win, like that of US President Donald Trump over the pundits' favourite and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton at the presidential polls last November.

"What is at stake is the soul of our country - liberty, equality, fraternity - this is not what Le Pen's proposals stand for. She has extreme views and is more isolationist," said the customer satisfaction manager.

 

Of the 8,646 French citizens registered to vote in Singapore, 6,565 cast their votes in the first round, a participation rate of nearly 76 per cent.

Of the votes, 47.2 per cent were for Mr Macron, while the Republican party's candidate Francois Fillon garnered 37.1 per cent and Ms Le Pen just 2.6 per cent.

But results of the first-round voting on April 23 in France showed Mr Macron finishing first with 23.9 per cent of the votes, while Ms Le Pen came second with 21.4 per cent.

Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen represent the En Marche! and National Front parties respectively; neither of France's major parties - the Republicans or Socialists - made it to the second round of voting.

Banker Marc Tassilly, 42, said: "I'm not surprised there are no traditional party members in the runoff. People are voting to show their disappointment."

A voter, who gave his name as Mr Stephane, agreed: "Some are voting for her to send a message, because they are suffering due to lack of employment or other issues."

"I don't think Madam Le Pen will win, the difference in votes is quite large. People don't identify with her mindset and her proposals are quite vague," said the 45-year-old who works in construction.

Voting at the French embassy at Cluny Park Road closes at 7pm on Sunday, with exit polls providing preliminary data after 8pm Paris time (2am on Monday local time) and the announcement of the official result on Wednesday (May 10).

About half of the voters The Straits Times spoke to on Sunday said they had cast their votes for other candidates in the first round, but opted for Mr Macron this time to avoid a Le Pen presidency.

Many were confident of his win, despite a dump of leaked e-mails on Friday (May 5) said to contain both real and fake documents that Mr Macron's campaign claimed was the result of a "massive" hack.

Voters said they were not concerned about its impact, as the documents contained no known evidence of wrongdoing, and France imposes a news blackout on the election and campaigns the day before voters go to the polls.

Some, however, were concerned about the short queues at the embassy on Sunday morning, with many pointing out that the turnout had been higher for the first round of voting with waiting times of over an hour.

Ms Isabelle Persenda, 50, a volunteer helping with the voting logistics, said: "Maybe people are expecting Macron to win and are staying home. After what happened in the US elections, I am worried about Le Pen winning."

Ms Persenda, who works in interior design, voted for Mr Macron both rounds.

"I like that he's a centrist, not conventional and has experience in both the public and private sectors. I also like the fact that he's young - it's about time we put power in the hands of the youth," she said.

Volunteer Geoffroy Ira, 36, said he was also backing the younger candidate, having been impressed by his background and lack of left-right ideology.

Mr Ira, a banker, added: "Marine Le Pen is playing off people's fears. What happened with Trump and Brexit, we don't want this for our country."