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‘Like choosing between the Black Death and Covid’ – French cast their votes in Aberdeen

As the eyes of the world turn to the French elections, The Gaudie speaks to voters in Aberdeen

By Anttoni James Numminen

Clément, Agathe, and Laures (left to right). Courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen

In the first round of the French elections, half a million French citizens cast their ballots abroad. But with 1,4 million registered voters abroad and an uncertain turnout expected in the second round, their votes could be decisive in an election that has been closely fought so far.

If it had been down to internationally cast votes alone, it would be incumbent Emmanuel Macron and the left-wing Jean-Luc Melenchon in the second round, with the far-right Eric Zemmour taking third place and far-right Le Pen only gaining five per cent of votes in fifth place.

This is a stance that was visible among the French voters that The Gaudie interviewed outside a polling station in the West End of the city, one of only three in Scotland. There was a clear sense of opposition to Le Pen’s candidacy, but also a weariness about having to vote for ‘the least of two evils’.

Dr Jean-Baptiste Gramain, a senior lecturer in mathematics at Aberdeen University said “the only good thing about the vote today” was the convenience of voting locally. “I really hope with all my heart that Le Pen is going to lose and if that means Macron wins again, that’s fine. It wouldn’t be the first time I’m stuck in this choice anyway”, he added.

Dr Jean-Baptiste Gramain. Courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.

Dr Gramain, who voted for Macron in today’s second round, said: “I know this puzzles a lot of British people because our system is different. But in the first round, I used the strategic vote which I think is a French speciality and I voted for Melenchon, although he wouldn’t have been my first choice. But I thought he was the only chance to see the left represented in the second round so I went for him and I think the left was close in enough to be in the second round.”

No one The Gaudie spoke to admitted to having voted for Le Pen, though many expressed regret about Melenchon not making it to the second round. French presidential elections must go to a second-round if no candidate can secure more than half of the vote in the first round.

In the first round on 10 April, Macron received 27.8 per cent and Le Pen 23.1 per cent, while Melenchon came third with 21.95 per cent.

Nadia, who has lived in the UK for 18 years, voted for Macron today but supported Melenchon in the first round. She criticised the left’s failure to unite around a single candidate, saying: “I am so through with little personalities getting ahead of big purposes and strategies. Cause I’m naturally more left-leaning, so I’m just fed up with having to choose between two people in the second round that I either thoroughly despise or that I don’t really believe in. It’s getting tiresome.”

"I’m just fed up with having to choose between two people in the second round that I either thoroughly despise or that I don’t really believe in."

Agathe, Lores, and Clément who came to vote from Dundee, all voted for the Green Party’s Yannick Jadot in the first round and today voted for Macron. Dolores, who works in a research lab in Dundee, told The Gaudie she hoped Macron would win but was not sure of the outcome, while they all agreed that they "did not even want to consider" what would happen if Le Pen won.

Meanwhile, Solveg and Pauline, also from Dundee, said that despite the distance from Dundee, they felt it was their “duty as citizens” to come and vote. When asked how they felt about the election, Solveg said: “Shit, let’s be honest, and a bit tense… It feels a bit like a repetition of 2017, but I’m not as sure as I was five years ago about the result for today.”

Solveg (L) and Pauline. Courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.

With many voters feeling unrepresented or disenfranchised at the ballot box, polls predict that abstentions will reach an all-time high in this election, with up to 28 per cent of voters likely to not vote at all.

Pauline said she could “understand” people “not being happy with Macron” but added “you have to choose the least of two evils, even if you’re not happy with Macron” citing the election of Donald Trump in the US and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Solveg concurred, saying: “In French we have this expression that ‘it’s like choosing between the Black Death and cholera’. But in this case, it’s like choosing between the Black Death and Covid, well, you would choose Covid I guess, even if Covid is bad as well.”

"But in this case, it’s like choosing between the Black Death and Covid, well, you would choose Covid I guess, even if Covid is bad as well.”

Father and daughter, Patrick and Francoise who live near Perth, also felt it was their duty to vote, even if they did not particularly like either candidate. Patrick, who has lived in Scotland since 1983 voted for Macron in both rounds of the election. He said: “I don’t want Le Pen in power. Even though Macron’s not perfect, he’s the next best candidate. It’ll be a disaster for Europe and for France if Le Pen is elected. After Brexit and Trump, I don’t even want to think about it.”

Patrick (L) and Francoise. Courtesy of AJN.

Polls currently predict that Macron will beat the National Rally’s Marine Le Pen, but the final outcome remains to be seen. Even if Macron does win, he’ll likely face an uphill battle in the upcoming legislative elections.

Dr Gramain added that he hoped Macron wouldn’t use a potential victory to claim he has considerable support, especially as the result would be “very close”.

“The first time that we had this dilemma in 2002, Chirac was elected with close to 83 per cent of the vote, that was an overwhelming defeat of [Jean-Marie] Le Pen rather than a victory for Chirac. This time I think Macron will go through with very little, it’ll be less than 60 per cent, that’s for sure and he won’t be able to claim a landslide victory with that" said the mathematics lecturer.

Polling station staff informed The Gaudie that more people had turned out for the second round of the election than the first round, with votes to be counted there and results sent electronically to France via the Consulate in Edinburgh.

The polling station.


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