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compromised vote for the French confined to Shanghai


While Shanghai is confined in the face of an outbreak of Covid-19, the question arises for the French people who live there: will they be able to vote for the first round of the presidential election this Sunday?

The French in Shanghai are at great risk of not being able to vote on Sunday in the first round of the presidential election, when the largest city in China is in confinement in the face of an outbreak of Covid.

China on Thursday announced a record 22,995 positive Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, most of them in Shanghai, its economic capital, which was placed in almost total containment last week.

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The huge metropolis had more than 7,000 French people registered with the consulate at the end of 2021, i.e. more than half of the French community established in mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Macao).

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Some 4,800 people are registered on the electoral lists in Shanghai.

Under very strict health measures, the 25 million Shanghainese are forced to stay at home. In this context, the holding in Shanghai of the first round of the presidential election is more than uncertain.

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“My personal prognosis is reserved,” admitted Wednesday the French ambassador, Laurent Bili, questioned during a meeting with the French community.

“Potentially, a number of voters will not be able to get to the polling place,” he warned.

“Difficult a few days before the presidential election to consider an alternative means of voting”

A decision was to be taken on Thursday in consultation with the Chinese authorities.

“The question is (therefore) whether the polling stations can be physically opened” in Shanghai despite the pandemic, and “if the French will be able” to go there, summarized Mr. Bili.

Contrary to the legislative ones which allow the remote vote, only two methods are envisaged for the presidential one: to vote in the office where one is registered or to vote by power of attorney, by a third party who goes imperatively in the polling station of the principal.

This last provision is strictly framed by a decree of the Council of State and a development seems unlikely by Sunday.

“It’s difficult a few days before the presidential election to consider an alternative way of voting”, regrets Franck Pajot, consular adviser and candidate for the 2022 legislative elections (social-ecology list) on the 11th constituency of French people living abroad, which includes the China.

“The prospect of not being able to vote for the presidential election represents a feeling of sadness, frustration and incomprehension,” Sébastien Bodennec, an executive who has been living in China for six years, told AFP.

“I would have appreciated if we could make a power of attorney to a city of a relative in France […] or in Beijing”, which is not confined, estimates for his part Simon Le Penhuizic, engineer at the French School of Shanghai.

“Huge frustration at not being able to vote”

“I admit that I do not feel that France is struggling to help the embassy” in China to find a solution, judge Emilie Bonche, 22.

“There is enormous frustration at not being able to vote,” adds this laboratory technician in biotechnology, who would have voted for “the first time” in a first round of the presidential election.

“The fact that so many votes are not counted is very appalling,” the young woman told AFP.

Besides Shanghai, other parts of the country are subject to quarantine measures.

Voting is a “fundamental right which must be respected at all costs”, says Brigitte, a 54-year-old “vaccinated” Frenchwoman living in Shenyang, a city in northeastern China confined for four weeks.

“It has been two and a half years since the French (in China) suffered the consequences of the health crisis and those of the zero Covid policy imposed by the Chinese authorities”, notes Mr. Pajot.



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