For the first time in history, French citizens who are living in Israel voted on Sunday in French parliamentary elections.
“Frenchwomen and Frenchmen living outside of French territory are called for the first time to elect 11 deputies to the National Assembly,” the French Consulate in Tel Aviv wrote in a letter. A similar letter was sent by the other French consulates of the country.
The letter explained to voters that they are now considered to be part of the eighth overseas constituency made up of the following Mediterranean countries: Israel, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, San Marino and the Vatican.
Israelis have a very strong presence among the French citizens of these countries: Out of the 110,000 who can vote, 62,000 have Israeli citizenship.
Eligible voters could visit one of 17 polling stations opened for that purpose from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Tel Aviv, both east and west Jerusalem, Ashdod, Beersheba, Afula, Eilat and Haifa.
French parliamentary elections are held in France one month after the presidential elections, which both occur every five years.
Last month, François Hollande from the Socialist Party defeated, during the second round of elections, outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy, from the right-wing UMP Party.
Now, in order to govern unencumbered for the next five years, Hollande desperately needs his party to gain a majority in the parliament, which looks to be the likely occurrence according to polls.
The parliamentary elections in France are held in two rounds, on June 10 and 17, but the votes outside France were scheduled for June 3 and 10.
Previously, French citizens living outside the country could only vote for the Senate, the upper chamber of the parliament.
But now, “for the first time in history French citizens living in Israel will have their representative in the Parliament, [with] the same rights and the same duties as any other deputy,” said Christophe Bigot, the French ambassador in Tel Aviv.
Ten candidates are looking to represent French Israelis.
The most famous of them is Philippe Karsenty, an independent right-wing candidate who spent years fighting in court against Charles Enderlin, the France 2 correspondent in Jerusalem, over the 2000 al- Durrah affair, when the channel aired controversial footage of a Palestinian boy allegedly being shot by IDF soldiers.
Others are Gilles Taieb, Valérie Hoffenberg from UMP and Dafna Poznanski- Benhamou from the Socialist Party.
On Sunday afternoon, a source at the French Consulate in Tel Aviv told The Jerusalem Post that “the participation [was] weak comparatively to the presidential” election. Some votes may have chosen to vote via Internet, as the letter mailed to voters from the consulate proposed.
That was the decision of Ginette Tibi, from Bat Yam, an employee of the French Embassy school who has lived in Israel for 30 years.
“It is a duty to vote, I am a bi-national citizen, concerned by my two countries,” she said. “I am Israeli, but I am also French and want to keep being French.”
Michele Scatigna-Lindenman, 74, a painter and decorator, didn’t go to vote yesterday, “just because I was busy with my grandchildren.” She will wait for the second round next week in order to fulfill her duty, but recognizes that she is “not [as] motivated for the legislative elections as I was for the presidential ones.”
“We don’t know enough about the candidates,” she complained.