On March 15, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign office rushed out a two-minute video message to French overseas voters, seeking to end a kerfuffle over his proposal to tax citizens living abroad. The message from Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Sarkozy’s campaign spokeswoman, sought to assure them that the new levy he’d announced three days earlier would only affect a small number of tax exiles. “Expatriates don’t have to worry,” she said. “You represent France abroad and the fruits of your labor won’t be affected.” Sarkozy isn’t the only one courting the 2.5 million French living overseas. Socialist contender Francois Hollande campaigned Feb. 29 in London, whose 300,000 French inhabitants would make it France’s sixth-largest city. Hollande followed in the footsteps of Sarkozy, who visited “Paris-on-Thames” in the 2007 campaign. The number of overseas French has doubled in the past decade, forcing candidates to pay them greater attention.
About 500,000 people have registered to cast their ballots from outside France this year, up from 250,000 in the 2007 vote and 125,000 in 2002, according to Herve Heyraud, the publisher of LePetitJournal.com, an online publication for French expats.
The first round of the French election is set for April 22, with the two leading contenders in the vote squaring off on May 6. An OpinionWay-Fiducial survey for lepetitjournal.com and TV5Monde, the only poll taken of overseas voters, showed they’d back Sarkozy over Hollande by 51 percent to 49 percent in the decisive second round next month.