A Jewish candidate from France’s leading opposition party comfortably won the first round of elections to the French parliament on Sunday and now has a good chance of representing French nationals living in Israel and seven other Mediterranean states.
Valérie Hoffenberg, a former head of the French branch of the American Jewish Committee, who ran for the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, received 2,479 votes, winning handsomely in a race with remarkably low voter turnout.
On June 9, Hoffenberg will face off in a second round of voting against the runner-up, Meyer Habib, the vice president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF). Habib, who entered the race for the small Union of Democrats and Independents, received 1,744 votes.
The candidate of President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, Istanbul resident Marie-Rose Koro, came in third with 1,659 votes.
Since 2012, French expatriates send their very own regional constituency representatives to the National Assembly in Paris. Last year’s election was annulled because the winner — Franco-Israeli Daphna Poznanski-Benhamou, from the Socialists — was disqualified due to campaign funding irregularities.
The French diaspora is divided into 11 so-called conscriptions. Israel is part of the eighth conscription, together with Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, San Marino and the Vatican.
“It’s a system that was designed in order to strengthen the link, the interconnection, between France and the French diaspora around the world,” said Christophe Bigot, the French ambassador in Tel Aviv. “I am sure that whoever gets elected will carry a lot of influence within the French political system,” the ambassador told The Times of Israel last week, be it by proposing and voting for laws or by interacting with government officials.
Six candidates received fewer than 100 votes. Franco-Israel lawyer Guy Fitoussi got only 15
In the eight countries that make up the eight conscription, 111,736 French nationals were eligible to vote. Nearly 60 percent of them reside in Israel.
Overall, voter participation was at 10 percent. In Haifa, less then 5 percent cast a ballot; in Tel Aviv about 8 percent and in Jerusalem nearly 11 percent took advantage of their right to vote.
As Hoffenberg, who had the backing of leading UMP politicians in Paris, and Habib are preparing for the decisive second round of voting, some of the other contestants might want to ask themselves what they did wrong. Some candidates performed dismally by any standard: six candidates received fewer than 100 votes. Franco-Israeli lawyer Guy Fitoussi got only 15.
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