On Saturday, I have to go vote for the first round of the Presidential Elections at the French Embassy in Ottawa. France will only vote on Sunday, but as “French abroad” we have to cast our ballot a day earlier.
A huge envelop filled with a thick stack of two-page long manifestos—one for each candidate—finally arrived by mail yesterday. It’s a bit late for that, isn’t it? I mean, doesn’t everybody know the candidates by now?
One thing that really annoyed me, on the other hand, is that since I registered at the French Consulate in Toronto, I keep on getting spammed by all the candidates. My name must have ended up on some “this chick probably digs the far-right” list (a huge mistake—ask any cop who tear-gassed me during the many left-wing protests I attended as a teen) because Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen were very productive, sending me email after email. Trust me, there is nothing worse than checking Yahoo first thing in the morning and realizing that the only person writing to you is that dude selling Viagra and Sarkozy (could it be the same person?).
As a French citizen, I think it’s my duty to vote for a new president. Also, I’m a nice person: I don’t think French should suffer five more years of Sarkozy.
The manifestos I received are the same ones French in France got: they highlight the candidates’ credo, explain the party’s beliefs, etc. The emails, however, were specifically crafted for the “French citizens abroad” audience. I read a few and I really didn’t recognize myself in them. They left me cold.
The main issue is that I don’t consider myself a French expat. I’m not temporarily residing abroad—I’m an immigrant. When I’m in Canada, I’m Canadian. When I’m in France, I’m French. Well, that’s the theory, barring my usual blunders and million-dollar questions regarding cultural differences. But one thing I’m not is an expat. To me, this word conjures images of French colonizers, of narrow-minded “us civilized people vs. them savages” communities.
But of course, for French politicians, it’s easier to talk to “expats” than to citizens of the world. They play nice and promise to defend their rights and freedom abroad. Gee, thanks. But really, none of the numerous electoral promises will affect me or will change anything for me.
Indeed, French immigrants’ status is a bit of a grey area. We retain French citizenship: for instance, I have a French and a Canadian passport. But unlike expats who typically study or work abroad temporarily, immigrants are long-term residents and usually have fewer ties with France than expats. For instance, few of us work for French companies abroad, or study in the network of French schools/universities.
Since we no longer have these ties with France, we don’t pay taxes in France, nor can we use the same benefits French residents enjoy, such as access to the health care system. And it makes sense. But it also makes us more or less immune to election promises.
The media like to say that French citizens abroad vote massively right-wing. I will resist. At least one vote on this side of the Atlantic Ocean will go to the far-left. “One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the Sarkozy propaganda…”