France: Prime Minister scraps pledge to let foreigners vote | Politico

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said his government had no plan to let foreigners vote in local elections, backpedaling formally on a 2012 campaign pledge by Socialist President François Hollande. The statement came as Valls’ Socialist party tried to drum up support ahead of local elections in December. Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Front party is expected to capture at least two regional council seats from the Socialists, which it accuses of letting too many migrants into the country. “That promise, in all senses, will not be implemented,” Valls said during a speech Tuesday at Paris’ prestigious Sciences Po university. “And I am convinced that it will not be proposed again during the presidential election.”

France: Vote blunts rise of France’s far-right National Front | Associated Press

France’s governing Socialists never expected to do well in Sunday’s first-round elections, and their strategy worked just as planned: Their conservative rivals took first place. Before the elections for 2,000 local councils, the Socialists urged people to vote, hoping that turnout would blunt the rise of Marine Le Pen’s far right National Front, even if it meant Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP would be the victor. Initial projections gave the UMP party 31 percent of the vote compared with 24.5 percent for the National Front and 19.7 percent for the Socialists and their allies. Turnout was 51 percent, compared with about 45 percent in the same elections in 2011. With little air of a man in third place, Prime Minister Manuel Valls was the first to praise the far right party’s defeat. “This evening, the extreme right, even it is too high, is not at the forefront of French politics,” Valls said. “When we mobilize the French, it works.”

France: First vote since Paris attacks raises tensions | Associated Press

France’s resurgent far right is vying for a shining moment this weekend, when the National Front is facing the Socialists in an election for a vacant seat in parliament. Sunday’s vote in the Doubs region is the first electoral test since the January terror attacks. It has raised political tensions as the nation waits to see whether the party’s anti-immigration message captures more hearts than the message of unity the French government is trying to preserve. The National Front’s candidate for the seat, Sophie Montrel, warns against the “Islamic peril” in France, while her Socialist opponent, Frederic Barbier, hopes to capitalize on the unity that bound the nation after the attacks on the satiric Charlie Hebdo newspaper and a Kosher grocery store that killed 17. The trauma wrought by three radical Muslims boosted the sagging profile of Socialist President Francois Hollande. Since then, he has worked to limit a backlash against France’s 5 million-strong Muslim population and ensure that youth living on society’s margins become active members of French society.

France: Cyber attack fails to halt leadership vote | BBC

Members of France’s centre-right UMP party have continued with an online leadership ballot despite an early cyber attack which slowed voting. A complaint was lodged with police after the attack on Friday evening, which may have prevented some members casting their vote. The party was voting online after fraud accusations beset its last ballot. Nicolas Sarkozy is tipped to win but needs a strong showing to keep his presidential re-election hopes alive. Since Mr Sarkozy’s defeat by Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in the 2012 election, the UMP has struggled to organise as an effective opposition party despite Mr Hollande’s dismal opinion ratings. Challenging Mr Sarkozy for the UMP leadership are two men, former Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire and MP Herve Mariton. The cyber attack had been “one of the risks anticipated” and had only succeeded in slowing the voting process, the party said, though Mr Mariton warned “thousands” had been unable to vote.

France: Far-right National Front gains ‘significant foothold’ in French elections | AFP

French President Francois Hollande is set to take the axe to his beleaguered government after it suffered humiliating losses in local elections in which the far-right National Front (FN) made historic gains. The outcome of the first nationwide vote since Hollande was elected in 2012 was described as “Black Sunday” by one Socialist lawmaker. The FN won control of 11 towns and was on track to claim more than 1,200 municipal council seats nationwide, its best ever showing at the grassroots level of French politics and a stunning vindication of leader Marine Le Pen’s efforts to extend its appeal. It was also a night to savour for France’s main opposition, the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). The party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy performed strongly across the country, seizing control of a string of towns and cities, including some once considered bastions of the left.

France: French electronic voting allegedly easy to rig – Ballot stuffing claims | TechEye

France’s first electronic election has turned into a farce with reports coming in of the sort of election rigging that you would expect from third world countries like Afghanistan, Zimbabwe or the USA. An “online-primary” claimed as “fraud-proof” and as “ultra secure” as the Maginot Line, has turned out to be vulnerable to a Blizkrieg of multiple and fake voting. The election was supposed to anoint a rising star of the moderate right, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, 39, as the party’s candidate in the election for mayor of Paris next spring. Some of her problems was that she abstained in the final parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage in late April and hard-right figures within the party urged militant opponents of gay marriage to swamp the open primary with votes for a young Paris city councillor, Pierre-Yves Bournazel. So it was going to be a tight election, and then journalists from Metronews proved that it was easy to breach the allegedly strict security of the election. They voted several times using different names to prove their point.

France: Vote Divides French Opposition |

An election aimed at giving France’s main opposition party a strong leader and filling the vacuum left by the political retirement of former center-right President Nicolas Sarkozy yielded confusion, acrimony and division, with both candidates continuing to claim victory a day after the vote. The Union pour un Mouvement Populaire appeared split after former Prime Minister François Fillon said Sunday evening he won the election with a short lead of 224 votes, adding that he was “serenely” waiting for official results. His rival, UMP’s secretary-general Jean-François Copé, made a similar claim, saying, “Militants have given me a majority of their votes and therefore elected me president of UMP.”

France: Affairs of politics and heart mark French election | Washington Examiner

Back-room deals, black lists and bitter duels. Political and personal intrigue has wormed its way into Sunday’s final round of French legislative elections. President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party is battling to assure a solid majority and fulfill his vows to boost growth in Europe and redefine the presidency as one beholden to the people. Barring surprises, the Socialists and their allies should win enough seats to control the crucial 577-seat lower house of parliament, after a strong showing in the first round a week ago. To get there, the party is trying to fend off conservatives who dominated parliament under former President Nicolas Sarkozy. They’re also trying to shame those in the mainstream right who are cutting vote-getting deals with the extreme right, anti-immigrant National Front, which is conniving for its first real presence in parliament in more than a quarter century. “The right no longer knows where it lives. It no longer knows what it is,” said Economy Minister Pierre Moscovici this week on France 2 TV. “It’s lost its markers, its identity, its values.”

France: How WWII Codes on Twitter thwarted French vote law |

Dutch cheese, Hungarian wine, rotten tomato and flan were just a few buzzwords thrown around in the French Twitter community on Sunday, when users wittily tweeted in code to skirt a French law prohibiting voting predictions in the first round of the presidential election. French election regulations ban anyone from leaking predictions before polls closed at 8 p.m., resulting in fines up to $100,000. In response, French Twitter users posted predictions and voting tallies using nicknames for the candidates to evade the attention of election officials appointed to monitor social networking sites for violations. They also paid homage to their past by using the hashtag #RadioLondres, a reference to codes broadcast from London’s BBC to resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, the AFP reports. “Tune in to #RadioLondres so as not to know the figures we don’t want to know before 8:00 pm,” the AFP reports of one ironic tweet.

France: Hollande on top but Le Pen delivers record result | The Guardian

François Hollande has moved a step closer to becoming the first Socialist president of France in a generation by beating the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, in the first round of elections for the Elysée. But the surprisingly high vote for the extreme-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, boosted the overall figures for the right and meant that the final runoff vote on 6 May remains on a knife-edge. Partial results from the beginning of the count showed Hollande – a former Socialist party leader, rural MP and self-styled Mr Normal – with a clear lead at more than 28%, compared with Sarkozy on about 26%. Hollande’s is one of the left’s best ever results and will raise momentum for next month’s final run-off. The Socialist party is seeking to return to the presidency for the first time since François Mitterrand’s re-election in 1988. But Sarkozy’s total will be seen as a personal failure. It is the first time an outgoing president has failed to win a first-round vote in the past 50 years and makes it harder for Sarkozy to regain momentum. The final runoff vote between Hollande and Sarkozy now depends on a delicate balance of how France’s total of rightwing and leftwing voters line up.

France: Polls open in France for presidential election | KEYC

Voting began Sunday in France in President Nicolas Sarkozy’s uncertain bid for re-election, with polls showing that many French are dissatisfied with his response to concerns about the economy and jobs. The voting will winnow down a list of 10 candidates from across the political spectrum to two finalists for the decisive runoff on May 6, which will set a course for the next five years in this pillar of the European Union. Polls for months have showed that the conservative Sarkozy – who has been relatively unpopular for months, if not years – and Francois Hollande, a Socialist, are likely to make the cut. “This is an election that will weigh on the future of Europe. That’s why many people are watching us,” said Hollande after voting in Tulle, a town in central France. “They’re wondering not so much what the winner’s name will be, but especially what policies will follow. That’s why I’m not in a competition just of personalities. I am in a competition in which I must give new breath of life to my country and a new commitment to Europe,” he added, urging a big turnout from voters.

France: Elections 2012: ‘It’s All About Emotion’ | Huffington Post

Like Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy swept to power on a wave of hope for change. Sarkozy’s wave crashed on the global financial crisis and his own failings. On Sunday, the French leader faces a tough fight against nine challengers in presidential elections awash in fear and anger. This has been a race of negative emotion and nostalgia for a more protected past: One of the world’s top tourist destinations and biggest economies, France is feeling down about its debts, its immigrants, its stagnant paychecks, and above all its future. To voters, the conservative Sarkozy gets much of the blame. While he’s likely to make it past Sunday’s first-round voting and into the decisive second round May 6, polls show his support waning. They predict another man will trounce Sarkozy in the runoff and take over the Elysee Palace: Socialist Francois Hollande.

France: Last day of campaigning for France election | BBC News

Candidates in the French presidential election are on their last day of campaigning before voters head to the polls on Sunday. No campaigning is allowed the day before the election. Front-runner Francois Hollande has already held a final rally in Bordeaux, while President Nicolas Sarkozy will hold his last campaign event in Nice. Polls show the two men neck-and-neck, but Socialist candidate Mr Hollande is expected to win a run-off vote. The far-right candidate Marine le Pen could take around 17% of the vote, while left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon has come from behind to see poll ratings at 14-15%. Centrist Francois Bayrou is likely to come in fifth place.

Voting Blogs: The French Presidency Is a Bargain | Sophie Meunier/Huffington Post

Ten candidates — that’s the field of presidential hopefuls competing for votes in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, April 22. Some of them are household names, like incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy and his main challenger, the socialist Francois Hollande. Others are still relatively unknown, even to French voters, such as the candidate representing the Trotskyist party, Lutte Ouvrière, or the head of the LaRouche movement in France (both currently polling at 0 percent). The multitude of candidates stems in part from a two-round electoral system, whereby everyone competes in the first round but only the two candidates with the highest number of votes face off in the second round (on May 6). What also enables so many candidates to run is that French electoral campaigns are cheap. As long as you can gather 500 signatures of support from about 47,000 elected representatives throughout France, you can stand for election to the presidency. Money is a good thing to have in a French electoral campaign, to be sure, but there is not that much money can buy: a good Web team; campaign posters; computers; t-shirts and gadgets; airfares; tolls and fuel for the cars of the party operatives who criss-cross the country; and the organization of campaign rallies — some small, some massive — such as Sarkozy’s recent meeting on the Place de la Concorde and Hollande’s big rally in Vincennes. That’s about it.  By law, campaign expenses are subjected to a maximum ceiling, and spending in excess of that is illegal. The state also subsidizes candidates. It gives about eight million euros, half of the maximum amount of expenses allowed in the first round, to those who obtain more than 5% of the votes in the first round and about 800,000 euros to those who do not make the 5% cut. In 2007, Sarkozy spent 21 million euros to win the presidential contest, while his main opponent, the socialist Ségolène Royal, spent 20 million euros. French politicians are, therefore, not enslaved to special interests or Super-PACs as they are in the U.S. Televised political ads are banned — only a small number of “statements” by each candidate, following strict rules on time and editing, can be broadcast on television and only during the five-week period of the “official” campaign as defined by law.

Editorials: French elections: how will London vote? | The Guardian

Sitting in a pub in Bethnal Green and nursing a mug of beer, Vincent Drapeau is hard pushed to think of what he misses about his home country. “The price of wine in supermarkets,” he says. “The baguettes in the bakery every morning. The diversity of landscapes.” He runs out. There is no more. He is at home here, in a quirky corner of the capital better known for its greasy spoons and street-art than its pâtisseries and pavement cafes. “East London leads London and London leads Europe, and maybe the world!” he declares, chuckling. Even he seems a little taken aback by the zeal of his anglophilia. The 25-year-old is just one of an estimated 300,000-400,000 French people who have crossed the Channel to live in Britain and are now scattered all over the country and, predominantly, in London. He is far from being, however, a member of the fabled South Kensington set, the close-knit community of expatriates based in and around the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, the Institut Français and the “Frog Alley” of Bute Street. For decades, the prominence of the enclave has caused it to become the symbol of the French community in Britain – much to the irritation of those who want no part of it. One woman, who lives in Kent, describes the south-west London district as an inward-looking “ghetto”- albeit one of wealth and privilege.

France: Expatriates Courted in Campaign as Their Number Doubles | Bloomberg

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.

France: Poll shows French favour voting rights for foreigners | The Local

A clear majority of French people want to give non-EU foreigners the right to vote in local elections, a recent poll shows. The ruling right-wing party disagrees. 61 percent of the French support the Socialist Party in their proposal to give foreigners from outside the European Union a right to vote, a Le Parisien poll shows. 75 percent of the left-wing electorate also support voting rights for foreigners.

Socialists control the French Senate and have tabled a bill to allow foreigners voting rights in local elections. They suggest giving voting rights to foreigners who have been living in France for over five years and have working papers. Foreigners from the European Union already have such voting rights.