French voters in COVID-hit Shanghai unable to cast ballots in Sunday election

French voters in COVID-hit Shanghai unable to cast ballots in Sunday election

French citizens under lockdown in COVID-hit Shanghai will be unable to vote at a city polling station in Sunday’s tightly contested first round of the presidential election, France’s embassy in Beijing said on Friday.

Repeated approaches to Chinese authorities seeking permission to open the polling station inside the city’s French consulate, and for voters and polling officials to be allowed to leave their homes, were rejected, the embassy said.

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“Unfortunately, it was answered by the Shanghai authorities on April 7 that ‘given the serious and complicated situation in Shanghai, it is objectively impossible to fulfil the conditions for the organisation by your consulate of the election, for the security of all people residing in Shanghai’,” the embassy said on its WeChat social media account.

Neither the Shanghai city government nor China’s foreign ministry immediately responded to a Reuters request for comment.

Shanghai is home to roughly 26 million people, including 4,848 registered French voters as of December, according to the embassy. It has been under lockdown as it battles China’s worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began in Wuhan over two years ago.

“It’s a big frustration because it’s a right that we have and we never missed a single election,” said David Iosub, 47, a Parisian who has lived with his family in Shanghai for eight years.

French voters can only cast their ballots in person or via proxy, and applications to vote by proxy must be completed well in advance and in most cases must include a visit in person to designated locations such as a police station or a consulate.

“It is always regrettable from a point of view for democracy that a large number of French people cannot vote in a major election,” said Franck Pajot, a Beijing-based candidate for this summer’s French legislative elections for the Asia, Oceania and Eastern Europe constituency of French people living abroad, which includes China.

Polling stations in six other cities in China including Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou will be open as planned.

A second round of voting will take place on April 24.

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