French expats to vote in pres. election
By Philip Iglauer
Presidential election fever has just begun in Korea, but less than one week remains for French expatriates here.
They head to the polls this Sunday in the second and final round of voting for their president, in which incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy faces off with his Socialist challenger Francois Hollande.
Some 10 candidates vied in the first round of the election held on April 22. This is the first year ever that French overseas voters cast ballots befrore their compatriots back home.
France’s presidential election this time around is also more important for Korea than ever before, because the new president will determine how France and, by extension, Europe, grapples with the European sovereign debt crisis, lackluster economic competitiveness and massive unemployment.
The EU is Korea’s third largest trading partner, with more than $100 billion in bilateral commerce annually, and Korea only recently inked a free trade pact with Europe.
Some 1,000 French expats here can weigh in on the electoral contest by casting ballots in person at the French consulate in Seoul.
France likely has the most enthusiastic electorate in the free world with a voter turnout of more than 80 percent.
By comparison, Korea’s voter turnout in its last presidential contest in 2007 was 63 percent.
French expats in Seoul, however, appear far more listless than their compatriots back home. In the first round of balloting, about 550 of the 1,000 eligible voters decided cast ballots, according to the French embassy ― just 55 percent.
French voters in the Americas will vote Saturday and expats here vote before France but on the same day, Sunday.
French elections are unique in some respects compared with those in Korea.
Campaigning must stop on the Friday before Sunday's voting, with the Saturday between ostensibly reserved for voters to contemplate their task without all those annoying television commercials, last-minute door-to-door canvassing and get-
out-the-vote phone calls.