Hong Kong’s French expats vote in presidential election, with signs most support Emmanuel Macron

Asia’s largest French expat community comprises some 20,000 nationals in city

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 11:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 May, 2017, 8:19pm

French expatriates in Hong Kong were casting their vote from Sunday morning in the election for their country’s next president, with signs that most would be opting for liberal candidate Emmanuel Macron of En Marche over far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

A steady stream of voters could be seen weathering the rain outside the French International School in Wong Ngai Chung Gap after the polls opened at 8am Sunday, with others casting their vote at the French consulate in Admiralty.

A consulate spokesman said he expected turnout to match that of the election’s first round in Hong Kong, which reached 66 per cent.

Amongst the offshore French, there is a bias towards the centre left
Franck Dargent, expat in Hong Kong

There are 8,160 French nationals registered to vote in Hong Kong, about 600 of whom have arranged to cast their ballots by proxy or postal vote, he said.

The local French population is one of the fastest growing expatriate communities in the city, growing recently at 6 per cent year on year. Over the last 10 years it has doubled to about 20,000 people, making it the largest French expat community in Asia.

Voters who spoke to the Post outside the French International School on Sunday overwhelmingly suggested they backed Macron, with many voicing a desire to avoid putting an extreme right politician in power.

Franck Dargent, 50, a banker who has lived in Hong Kong for more than three years, said he hoped voter participation would be high to give Macron a sizeable mandate to govern.

“Today is a big day. There is a lot at stake,” he said. “I think the outcome is quite well known, but I hope the next president will have a significant base. You have two different options. One is European orientated and the other is a Trumpist vision of the world. I think amongst the offshore French, there is a bias towards the centre left.”

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Carole Defago, a 37-year-old mother-of-three who also said she would vote for Macron, described the two candidates as “unexpected”.

“One has a very extreme view – we never expected her to come this far and we hope she does not win. She wants to come out of Europe and she is against immigration. But the other candidate is very young and he has no experience.”

Meanwhile Benoit Ganzmann, a 42-year-old insurance professional living in Hong Kong for nine years, was also supporting Macron and felt the two candidates offered voters a limited choice.

“I am not sure [Macron] is going to change anything, but I don’t think he’s going to harm anything,” he said. “He is going to have to work with both the left and the right.”

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A final Ipsos poll put Macron, who was named President Francoise Hollande’s finance minister three years ago and has never held an elected post, on course for victory with 63 per cent of the vote. But as the 39-year-old politician looked set to become the youngest president in France’s history, there remained concerns he would struggle to command sufficient support from other parties to make significant political changes.

About 40 consulate agents and 80 volunteers were coordinating the vote at the French International School on Sunday. The results of the local vote are to be announced at 2am Monday Hong Kong time, once the results of the entire vote worldwide have been counted.