Voting for a French president feels more powerful than for a local MP

Reader Susan Laborde, lost her right to vote in the UK vote after 15 years in France, so her first vote as a French citizen has even more significance

Carte electorale and carte d'identite
Briton in France cites Brexit and loss of UK right to vote as reasons for French citizenship application

Electing a president, rather than simply an MP representing a party, gives voters a greater feeling of agency, says reader Susan Laborde, who will be voting for the first time in France in the presidential election.

Mrs Laborde, who has lived near Sauveterre-de-Béarn, about an hour from Biarritz, since 2004, and married her French husband Max in 2009, was galvanised to apply for French nationality by Brexit.

After spending five years on the conseil municipal of her village, she had started to think about it but the referendum made up her mind.

Read more: Aperos, choirs, cars, cards: Readers’ French integration successes

By the time Mrs Laborde was finally given an interview, two-and-a-half years had elapsed, by which time she had lost her right to vote in the UK.

“[I] was effectively disenfranchised, so being able to vote had become really important to me,” she said.

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

Using her vote in a French presidential election – and not just local or EU elections – has made her feel more involved with the campaign process.

“It feels great. It means I have been following French politics a bit more than I used to so that I feel informed.”

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

Mrs Laborde also says that choosing the future leader of the country makes her vote feel more direct than it ever did in the UK.

She intends to vote for Emmanuel Macron, who, she says, has respect on the world stage and “is trying to do something about making the education system a bit more equal and less elitist”.

Fellow new voter Jane Storr, a retired hospital pharmacist who lives between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, has yet to make up her mind. She became a French citizen in June last year – again, a decision that was prompted by Brexit.

Having moved to France in 2005, she lost her British vote in 2020.

“It was very isolating, not being able to vote in either my country of birth or the country I had come to call home,” she says. “It made me feel stateless.

“The 15-year rule is outdated. The idea that after this time an expat has lost all ties with the UK is ridiculous. The French do not lose their right to vote, no matter where they live.”

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