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They vote for French polls, from India

As France votes to elect a new president, a few people in this union territory too exercise their franchise.

india Updated: Apr 22, 2007 22:49 IST

As France voted to choose a new president on Sunday, far away in this Indian union territory, a clutch of residents also stirred out of their homes to exercise their franchise.

For, this former French enclave has 5,252 registered French voters, including those from Mahe, which is administratively part of Puducherry even though geographically it falls in Kerala.

As many as 44.5 million French voters, many living outside France and its once-distant legions, began the process to choose their president from among three candidates - Socialist Ségolène Royal, Nicolas Sarkozy of the right of centre UMP (Rally for Popular Movement) and Francois Bayrou, seen as a centrist. Twelve others are in the fray.

The elections take place in two phases - on April 22 and on May 6. Voting began at 8 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. By afternoon Sunday, 48 percent of the voters in India had cast their ballot at the voting centres.

Most French voters in India seem to be supporters of the UMP.

N. Balakrishnan, president of the 72-member French Union in Mahe, told IANS that 33 people had cast proxy votes through the French consulate April 16.

"The presidential race would be a close one between Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy," said the 62-year-old who returned from France four years ago after living there for 37 years.

Soil scientist Claude Marius, 74, who has voted from Puducherry thrice since 1995, told the media, "The three main candidates are relatively new but Sarkozy is likely to get the most votes."

Besides the three main contenders, "the extremes of the political spectrum will participate. They include three Trotskyites, a Communist, a Green and an anti-MNC, a campaigner for hunters' rights, a Catholic nationalist and an ultra-nationalist", says Auroville resident and political observer Claude Arpi.

Arpi, however, is not voting, "I don't feel 100 percent French. I have been living in India for the past 33 years, I hold a PIO (persons of Indian origin) card (with a French passport)," he admitted.

The French nationals here seem more concerned by the elections of the National Council of the French Abroad, Arpi said.

"Usually, the French voters in Pondicherry vote for the right side of the political spectrum, but it is rather unpredictable this time."

Puducherry remained under French jurisdiction until June 1954 when it became a part of India.