Thousands of French expats in Montreal wait for hours to vote for the next president

French citizens living in Montreal turned out in droves on Saturday to vote in the first round of the French presidential election.

French voters go to the polls on Sunday. But for citizens outside the country, Saturday was their chance to vote.

In Montreal, voters waited in a slow-moving queue that more than once wrapped around the Palais des Congrès in the city’s downtown core. Some people waited almost three hours to vote.

“We know the line is long [but it’s moving well]that y’all can’t wait to vote, we’re doing our best,” read a tweet from the French consulate in Montreal earlier in the afternoon.

Polling stations in Canada for the French elections are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET.

Montreal has the largest community of French expatriates outside of Europe. Some 67,132 voters are registered to vote here, about 10,000 more than in the last election in 2017.

“I think people here, living in Montreal, living in Quebec, are really part of the local society and the local community — but they also have their national belonging in their hearts,” said Sophie Lagoutte, the consular general of France in Montreal.

And it appeared that rain, long lines and wait times didn’t stop voters from making their voices heard.

Omar Djeziri queued for two hours at the Palais des Congrès to vote. He said voting was important, since his family still lives in France.

“I want to decide with them. I’m still interested in French politics even though I live here,” he said.

A leftist voter has his passport checked as he prepares to vote. Officials reminded voters to bring a French or EU photo ID. (The Canadian Press)

On Saturday, Fouad Benhaida voted for the first time in a French election, and he brought his son as a teaching moment.

“It’s not just a right, but it’s an obligation that everyone must do,” he said. “I now live here, but maybe tomorrow I will go back and I want to have a good country.”

In Ottawa, two polling stations were set up at the Lycée Claudel private school, one reserved for voters residing in Outaouais and the other for voters in Ottawa.

Julien Le Roy cast his ballot there, and says he voted even though he was not particularly inspired by the presidential race.

“The excitement wasn’t really there,” Le Roy told Radio-Canada in a French-language interview. “I’m going to vote because I think it’s still important, but there’s not a lot of enthusiasm.”

Echoes of 2017

Long wait times to get to a ballot box weren’t the only similarities to the 2017 election.

The voters’ choice is almost a repeat of five years ago, with incumbent President Emmanuel Macron trying to fend off his main challenger, Marine Le Pen.

In 2017, Macron was elected France’s youngest president, and he is now seeking a new term.

He is one of 12 candidates running for the presidency. The winner must garner more than 50% of the vote, and if that doesn’t happen, a runoff election with the top two voters will take place on April 23 for French nationals in Montreal and April 24 in France.

A second round with the two best voters will take place on April 23 for French nationals in Montreal but on April 24 in France. (The Canadian Press)

Macron said on Friday he was confident ahead of the weekend’s election, despite his far-right rival Le Pen narrowing the gap in opinion polls days before the vote for the premier. round.

Polling firms say Le Pen, who is running in his third presidential race, would likely finish second to Macron if they both qualified for the final round.

The results of the crucial first round of voting will start rolling in on Sunday.