Thousands in B.C vote in advance polls for French presidential election

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Thousands in B.C vote in advance polls for French presidential election

Thousands of French citizens lined up at polling stations in Vancouver to vote in the first round of the country's presidential election.

There are approximately 6,000 voters registered with the French consulate in Western Canada, which opened five polling stations to accommodate them a day ahead of the vote in France.

The expatriates vote early so as not to be influenced by the mainland results, due on Sunday evening at around 1800 GMT.

Polling stations were located in Vancouver — including one at the French consular office — as well as in Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton.

Consul General Jean-Christophe Fleury told Radio-Canada the number of French voters in Western Canada has increased by more than 30 per cent since the last election in 2012.

Long wait

Some voters in Vancouver waited up to two and half hours to cast their ballot.

Fleury says 4,000 of the 6,000 voters are in B.C. and it took eight months to prepare the polling stations.

"You have to check one by one if voters are still in the riding," he told Radio-Canada. "We send them e-mails, then [mail-outs], and then we make phone calls because we need an electoral list that's as accurate as possible."

Fleury also said special ballot boxes had to be sent from France.

"They should be transparent, of a certain size, with two padlocks, a counter for the number of envelopes slipped. This is tailor-made ... for only five, you have to get them from France."

Campaign posters and ballot papers were also sent from Paris, so voters could obtain information for all 11 candidates.

Voters interviewed in Vancouver said the 2017 French presidential vote is important.

Stakes high in French vote

"There are candidates who promote very democratic values and an independent society, staying in touch with the big issues of the world," said Stephan Guriez in Vancouver.

"Then there are the populist candidates who want France to close down and shut down, similar to what Trump wants for the U.S."

The first round will send two into a run-off vote in two weeks' time to pick a new president for France.

The country is a core member of the European Union and the NATO alliance, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and the world's fifth largest economy.

French national Jean-Vaptiste Lasaygues said the stakes are high and he wants to ensure his vote is counted.

"After the Brexit vote, after Trump's election in the United States, I think France and the French people, we have to show an example; we have to show that democracy is still alive, and we are not going to go to the extremes," said Lasaygues in Vancouver.

It's estimated that out of the nearly 47 million French voters, 85,000 are in Canada, with the majority in Quebec.

with files from Johann Nertomb.