French election results prompts mixed reaction from expats in Montreal

French election results prompts mixed reaction from expats in Montreal

French expats anxiously watched as results of the pivotal first round of the presidential election in their home country started to trickle in Sunday afternoon in Montreal, where some erupted into cheers and others began to cry.

Following a divisive race, far-right and anti-immigration nationalist Marine Le Pen will face off against centrist Emmanuel Macron during the second round of the election in May. 

Viewing parties were set up across the province one day after thousands of expats lined up for hours outside polling stations in Montreal and Quebec City. The majority of the 85,000 eligible French voters in Canada live in Quebec.

"I am not sure I will vote for the second round, I don't even know," said Elena Lesjoie De Paz through tears, adding that she hoped the leftist outsider Jean-Luc Mélenchon would make it to the second round.

 "I had so much hope for this time and it's always the same and nothing will change."

Eleven candidates were initially vying for presidency. The winner is required to garner more than 50 per cent of the vote, which means citizens will head to the polls next month to choose either Macron or Le Pen to lead their country.

The establishment conservative François Fillion and Mélenchon are expected to finish with around 20 per cent of vote each. 

Hopeful for Macron

While Le Pen moving forward to the next round didn't surprise many French expats, many were happy to see that Macron made it through as well.

"It's really nice to see that he's not only a winner, but he's in first place and above Marine Le Pen, which is a good sign of democracy for our country," said Paul Lene.

Other French citizens expressed their concern that voters will opt for Le Pen when they head back to the polls in May.

"I think the French people expressed their discontent about politics, about the message that was sent," said Thomas Estines, who moved to Montreal five years ago.

"Nothing is given for the second round, Macron has a little advantage but I don't think it's a given so we'll see." 

Calls for more polling stations

A petition was also launched by French citizens in Montreal after thousands waited for hours outside of a private school in Outremont to vote.

It was the only polling station in Montreal slated to serve the 57,000 French citizens eligible to vote.

The petition calls for the French consulate to open more polling stations for the second round of voting, claiming the situation on Saturday discouraged citizens from casting their ballot.

"Some even had to go back home because they wouldn't have been able to make it through before the closing of the station," reads the petition.

The polling station in Montreal was supposed to close its doors at 8 p.m. but the last ballot was cast around 11 p.m. 

Estines said he waited more than two hours to vote, but that it was worth it.

"I heard a lot of people were fed up because the wait was so long, but you know in our life as citizens, it's once every five years so I don't think it's such a pain," said Estines.

"Of course it could be better organized but it's not that bad. I mean two hours of your life isn't horrible."