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Expat vote grows in importance

Connexion edition: December 2007

THE British Electoral Commission is urging the 5.5 million expats who live abroad to vote in the next general election.

The commission, which was set up by Parliament but is independent of the government, says that, of the 200,000 Britons who live in France, only 20,000 are registered to vote. The commission has launched a publicity campaign to increase this number. It also has a website on the topic at www.aboutmyvote.org.uk.

Head of campaigns Nina Ziaullah said: “If a snap election is called, there may not be much time to get registered which is why it is important to do so now. You may miss some things about Britain but you don’t have to miss out on your chance to your vote.”

A branch of the Conservative Party, Conservatives Abroad, is also stressing the importance of expat votes. The Tories believe they could be crucial to their chances of success stating that in the last elections 17,780 expats registered - considerably under 1% of those who could have done so, according to their estimates. They estimate at least half of expats are eligible to vote.

According to Conservative Party Chairman Francis Maude, if 10% of those able to register voted Conservative, it would “play a massive role in the party winning many swing seats and returning to government.” UK shadow home secretary William Hague said: “Many expats still have financial interests in the UK. They may still have a property in the UK, or they might be paying tax on the pension that they draw from the UK. When they vote in UK elections they can vote for what will be best for their country and what is best for their friends and family still living in the UK. Many expats decide to come home after a few years overseas. For all these reasons, it is right that their voice should be heard in a British election.”

About 45 million Britons are currently on the UK’s electoral roll. The Labour Party abroad also has information about voting, however, no-one from the party was available to comment on the topic.

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