Overseas French nationals in Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Kerala cast their ballots in the election to the post of Councilors for the French living abroad, who liaison between the expatriate community and the French authorities.
There are 4,618 voters registered on the consular registry of the French Consulate in Puducherry, with a majority of them, in the Union Territory of Puducherry. In India, there are two constituencies, the north and the south. Three seats are to be filled for the southern constituency.
The final polling figures were not immediately available. The results were expected late into the night once the counting was completed, a spokesperson said.
The Consulate organised the elections amid strict COVID-19 safety protocols across six polling stations — four in Puducherry, one in Chennai and one in Karaikal. Voting was held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Puducherry registered a voter turnout between 32% and 39.2% and Karaikal 47.56%, according to figures from the Consulate.
Heavy rain took a toll on the polling in Chennai which saw the lowest participation rate of 8.57%.
These elections were originally scheduled for 2020 but got postponed twice because of the pandemic.
According to the French Consulate, these ‘councilors for the French living abroad’, or advisers represent the French nationals in their constituency, but do not represent the State or the Government of France, a role assumed by the Ambassadors and Consuls General.
The role of these councilors is to assist French citizens on day-to-day issues (education, health, security, retirement, etc.) and to represent them before the Consulate General of France and the French authorities.
They are members of the consular council and are responsible for issuing opinions on issues relating to the daily life of French citizens abroad. The councilors, who are elected for a six-year tenure, are the link between French communities of South India and the Consul General.
Worldwide, there are 442 councilors for French living abroad. In turn, these councilors form part of an electoral college that votes for the representation of French citizens at the Assembly of French Citizens Abroad and for members of the Senate, the French Parliament’s upper house.
The five candidates in the fray head six-member ‘lists’ of nominees and each make their case with distinct manifestos.
Lise Talbot Barre, French Consul General in Puducherry-Chennai, said: “This is a special day for French people living in India. Elections are an important part of the Republic and French citizens of South India are very attached to that duty. My constituency has always had the highest participation rate in consular elections.”
Ms. Barre also expressed gratitude to authorities of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Karikal for their support in facilitating the elections in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We implemented a strict and enhanced sanitary protocol,” she said.