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‘We're proud to be voting in France for first time this election’

After 30 years in France, journalist Jane Hanks, now has the right to vote as a French national and is taking the responsibility seriously

Carte electorale in jeans pocket

Brexit, a referendum she could not vote in, was the catalyst for Jane applying for French nationality Pic: pixinoo / Shutterstock

This year will be the first time I have voted in a general election in 30 years, and it will be the French Presidential.

I moved to France in 1991 and, from then on, did not vote in the UK elections – there no longer seemed any point as I did not live there.

Some years later, I couldn’t even if I had wanted to, as Britons lose parliamentary voting rights, and linked rights such as taking part in referendums, after 15 years away.

This might change as the UK’s Elections Bill is expected in due course to reinstate voting rights for all Britons who have moved overseas.

Read more: Votes-for-life bill: UK citizens in France urged to show support

Read more: Votes for life for Britons abroad expected within weeks

Good news – particularly for those who still have property in the UK, work interests, or who intend to move back some time.

Brexit did me a favour

For someone like me, however, who has no links with the UK, it only makes sense to vote in France. 

I work and pay my taxes here, use the French medical services, my children grew up here and were part of the education system from nursery school onwards. Now they work here, are settled with partners and have their own children.

In a very small way, Brexit, which I can in no other way condone, did me one favour. It gave me the impetus to finally apply for French nationality. 

It was worth the effort and it feels good to be the owner of a French passport, carte d’identité and voting card.

I now have far more interest in coverage of the elections on the French news than I would have had otherwise. It resonates. I feel angry, for example, if a candidate has ideas I cannot approve of.

It does not make deciding who to vote for easy. There are so many candidates, and the classic right/left divisions are long gone.

I feel it is an important choice. 

Campaign issues matter more to me now

There are many urgent issues to decide which will impact the future of this country, my country now, and affect all our daily lives.

Electricity – should we go down the road of building new nuclear reactors as Emmanuel Macron wants to do, or slow down their production and concentrate on renewable energies?

There are also environmental issues at stake, and the difficult question of how to provide enough power for ever-increasing demand, above all if we need to charge one or two electric cars per household. 

Each candidate has their own views on retirement, suggesting pensionable ages of 60, 62, 64, 65 or older, trying to get the balance between having full enough coffers to pay out pensions for long periods, encouraging healthy old age, and leaving jobs for the young.

Read more: ‘When I am president’: The key policies of final 12 French candidate

Every issue has its pros and cons and, in an increasingly complex world, the decisions become more difficult to make. 

It is a responsibility I want to take seriously, so that I use my long-awaited vote wisely.

Voting makes me feel part of the community

I had a little taste of what it will feel like last year, when I voted in the local elections for the first time as a French national. 

My husband and I were both greeted warmly and were able to chat with people we knew who were voting at the same time as us. 

It gave a real sense of belonging to the community.

I will never be wholly French, as you realise after living in a foreign country for such a long time, especially when your partner is also British. Cultural roots remain strong.

But France is my chosen country, voting makes me feel more connected to it, and I will feel proud as I drive up to the polling booth to make my very tiny but important contribution to the presidential elections.

Democracy is something that should be defended, even more so considering current events in Ukraine. 

At last, 30 years on, I will be making sure I play my part.

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