The overwhelming majority of French citizens living in Israel voted for Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of the country’s presidential elections held on Sunday, demonstrating that French expatriates here favor the incumbent’s conservative economic policies and his tough stance on immigration but reject the more radical approach of Marine Le Pen’s anti-Muslim National Front.
According to the French Embassy, a whopping 81% supported Sarkozy, while 8% voted for his Socialist challenger, Francois Hollande. Four percent voted for Le Pen, of the far-right National Front, and 2.8% cast their ballot for Francois Bayrou, a candidate of the centrist Democratic Movement.
The results in Israel are markedly different from those in France, where Hollande came in first with 28.5% of the vote, closely followed by Sarkozy with 27.1%. Le Pen came in third with a strong showing of 18.2%. A far left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who in Israel garnered a meager 1.3%, reached 11.1%. Sarkozy, of the center-right UMP, and Hollande will face off in the second round of voting on May 6.
The results from Israel indicate that French-Israelis favor the incumbent’s economically more conservative policies over those of his Socialist opponent. But perhaps even more important for their voting patterns was the impression that Sarkozy is more determined to combat Muslim extremism, a topic that has for years preoccupied French Jews, and which now rings even louder after a radicalized Muslim shot three Jewish children and a rabbi in Toulouse last month. Even before the tragic shooting, Sarkozy had lamented “too many foreigners” in France.
While most French citizens immigrate to Israel for ideological reasons and not to flee anti-Semitism — although it is not an uncommon occurrence on the streets of Paris or Marseille — they resoundingly rejected Le Pen, who ran on an anti-immigration platform. Voters here evidently remember that her father — the party’s founder and longtime leader Jean-Marie Le Pen — has a longstanding reputation as an anti-Semite. Notorious for calling the gas chambers a “detail of history,” he has been convicted of racism or anti-Semitism at least half a dozen times.
While in France about 80% of eligible voters cast their ballot, in Israel voter turnout was much lower: roughly 15% of about 63,500 registered voters made their way to the polling stations, which were located in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Eilat, Afula, Ashdod and Netanya.