Thousands of French expats in Montreal waiting for hours to vote for the next president

French citizens living in Montreal flocked Saturday to cast their ballots in the first round of France’s presidential election.

Voters in France head to the polls on Sunday. But for citizens abroad, Saturday is their chance to vote.

In Montreal, voters waited in slow lines that circled more than once around the Palais des congres in the city center. Some people waited nearly three hours to cast their ballots.

“We know the line is long [but it’s moving well]that you are all excited to vote, we are doing our best,” the French Consulate in Montreal tweeted in the afternoon.

Polling stations in Canada for the French election are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.

Montreal has the largest community of French expats outside Europe. About 67,132 voters registered to vote here — about 10,000 more than the last election in 2017.

“I think the people here, who live in Montreal, live in Quebec, are really part of the local community and the local community – but they also have a sense of nationalism in their hearts,” said Sophie Lagoutte, the French consulate general in Montreal.

And it seems the rain, long lines and waiting times haven’t stopped voters from voicing their opinions.

Omar Djeziri waited two hours in line at the Palais des congres to cast his vote. He said the vote was important, because his family still lives in France.

“I want to decide with them. I am still interested in French politics even though I live here,” he said.

A voter on the left has his passport checked as he prepares to vote. Officials reminded voters to bring a French or European photo ID. (Canadian Press)

On Saturday, Fouad Benhaida voted for the first time in a French election, and he brought his son with him as a teaching moment.

“It’s not just a right, it’s an obligation that everyone has to do,” he said. “I live here now, but maybe tomorrow I will go back there and I want to have a good country.”

In Ottawa, two polling stations were set up at the private Lycée Claudel school — one reserved for voters living in Outaouais, and the second for voters in Ottawa.

Julien Le Roy cast his ballot there, and said he voted even though he wasn’t particularly inspired by the presidential election.

“The excitement doesn’t really exist,” Le Roy told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview. “I will vote because I think it’s still important, but there isn’t much enthusiasm.”

Echo 2017

The long waiting time to get to the ballot box is not the only similarity with the 2017 election.

Voting for voters was almost repeated five years ago, with incumbent President Emmanuel Macron trying to fend off his main challenger, Marine Le Pen.

In 2017, Macron was elected France’s youngest president, and he is now seeking a new mandate.

He was among 12 candidates in the presidential race. The winner is required to get more than 50 percent of the vote, and if that doesn’t happen, second-round elections with the two highest-scoring votes will be held on April 23 for French nationals in Montreal and on April 24 in France.

The second round of elections with the two highest votes will be held on April 23 for French nationals in Montreal but April 24 in France. (Canadian Press)

Macron said on Friday he was confident heading into a weekend election, although right-wing rival Le Pen narrowed the gap in opinion polls days before the first-round vote.

The polling firm said Le Pen, who is running in his third presidential election, would likely finish second behind Macron if they both advance to the finals.

The results of the important first round of voting will start coming in on Sunday.

Clara Burton

"Geek zombie. Subtly charming social media scholar. Beer enthusiast. Lifelong bacon pioneer."

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