Nearly 1.8 million of France’s 47 million voters live and are registered to vote abroad, including nearly 100,000 in Britain where embassy staff and volunteers were operating 54 polling stations in 11 different cities.
As French nationals around the world queued to vote for a new president after a bruising, deeply divisive campaign led by two candidates offering diametrically opposed visions for their country’s future, London voters had their say.
Florence, 49, accountant, in Britain for 22 years: “I voted Macron in the first round and will do the same today. He has a programme, at least. And Marine Le Pen, I just couldn’t ... I’d be worried if she won and I lived in France.
“It will be hard for Macron without a party behind him, yes, but the world’s changing at the moment and you have to start somewhere. His first priority has to be to boost employment. But this campaign, really, there was no choice.”
Pierre, 30, IT specialist: “The debate on Wednesday really reinforced my opinion. What we mostly heard was Le Pen insulting Macron non-stop, and I was pleasantly surprised by how he debated.
“My vote is a positive one, and at the same time to block Le Pen. I’m with Macron on his economic position, his vision for the EU and as regards Russia. And I’m blocking Le Pen, because a President Le Pen is really not a good thing for the world. These are two different visions of the world.
Arnaud, 47, works in international development, 27 years in UK: “I’ve been disappointed by the quality of the debate but I’m sticking with my first-round choice: my priorities are the economy and security, I’m voting Marine Le Pen.
“Someone once said: ‘We change politicians, but we don’t change politics,’ and I think we need real change. I am pro-European in principle but I don’t like what Europe has become. It needs reforming. I want a renegotiation, then a referendum.
“Her attitude towards Putin does not worry me; the cold war is over. We have to stop playing on people’s fears. Yes, she does it but what seduces me the most is her French-first policy, the idea of a national preference.
“I left France 30 years ago and nothing has changed. It’s still unemployment, immigration, the budget deficit ... I want real change. And we don’t know who Macron is. You don’t get to be a Rothschild’s banker without a killer instinct.”
Nicolas, 47, works in catering, in London since 1989: “I didn’t really vote from conviction, but to make sure a certain someone doesn’t get elected. I’m voting Macron because he’s the least worst – but by a good long way.
“If Le Pen does win, the consequences for France and for Europe would be terrible. I’m not particularly happy with the EU as it is. It has too much power and needs reforming.”
Bérangère, 26, marketing account manager: “For me, it’s a default vote – tactical, very clearly. I voted centre-right, for François Fillon, in the first round because Macron seems to me a bit of everything and its opposite.
“But Le Pen, I can’t be doing with her values and her stance on immigration. France cannot turn in on itself. And economically, her programme is really worrying, leaving Europe and returning to the franc ...
“My parents, in Lyon, can never usually agree, one’s left and the other’s right, but they are both agreed on Macron! Although I have some friends who will not vote, they say they cannot.”
Pierre, 28: “I’m worried by this ‘neither-nor’ movement, the idea that you can’t vote because you can’t wholeheartedly support one candidate ... It’s crazy, there’s clearly a difference between a centrist and the far right!
“I voted Macron in the first round and will do so again today. What I like about him is his approach to political renewal in France, and the idea that he aims to extend the welfare safety net and social protection to people like the self-employed.”