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A Bilbao aspires to the National Assembly

José Miguel Sánchez was born in Bilbao and has been living in France for more than 30 years. / CE

José Miguel Sánchez presents himself with the Union of Centrists and Ecologists party in the fifth constituency of the French abroad

BEATRIZ JUDGE Correspondent. Paris

José Miguel Sánchez Pérez wants to be a deputy of the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament. The 59-year-old is running for legislative elections on June 12 and 19. He is a candidate for the Union of Centrists and Ecologists (UCE) in the fifth constituency of the French abroad, which includes residents of Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Monaco.

This environmentalist candidate, born in Bilbao but who has been living in France for more than 30 years, can stand in the elections because he has dual Spanish and French nationality. You do not have to reside in Spain to apply for the seat. “I want to be a deputy because I have very strong convictions to defend the values ​​of ecology,” he explains to this newspaper. “If we manage to make ecology one day neither right nor left nor center, we will have won a great battle,” adds the candidate, who stresses the challenge of his party: to make “a pragmatic, realistic and social ecology” .

In France, Sánchez, married to a Spanish woman and with two daughters born in the neighboring country, has fulfilled his “childhood dream, which was to investigate”, something that, as he explains, was more difficult in Spain in the field of ecology and environment. He is director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the most important research institution in France. He has a lot of connection with the constituency. He frequently travels to Bilbao and has participated in numerous interregional projects in Spain and Portugal. He is also president of the supporters club of Athletic Club de Toulouse.

It is not easy for him in these elections. He will compete for the seat against 11 other candidates, including Manuel Valls, former French Prime Minister and former Barcelona City Council member. The former socialist lives between Paris, Barcelona and Menorca. Valls, 59, is running in the elections as a candidate for President Emmanuel Macron’s party and his allies. “A case of political parachuting that is a bit strange,” according to Sánchez. If Valls were to win the seat, it would mean his return to French politics after four years of absence due to his frustrated Catalan adventure.

Outgoing deputy Stéphane Vojetta, a dissident from La República en Marcha, Emmanuel Macron’s party, is also running for that seat. He has refused to withdraw from the race for the National Assembly to make room for Valls, despite the fact that the French president has chosen the former prime minister as his candidate in Spain and Portugal.

The division of the vote of La República en Marcha and the unpopularity of Valls among many voters could favor Renaud Le Berre, candidate of Ecologist Europe-The Greens (EELV), who is running for these elections as a candidate of the union of leftist parties (Nupes). La Berre and Sánchez dispute the ecological vote.

He will compete for the seat with 11 other candidates, including the former French minister and former Barcelona councilor, Manuel Valls

Since 2012, French residents abroad have been able to elect their deputies to represent them in the National Assembly. These deputies, 11 of the 577 in the lower house, defend, like their 12 senators in the upper house, the interests of French expatriates on issues such as taxes, pensions, teaching French abroad or the problems consular

“One of my battles is to make consular services less technocratic. You have to simplify things. That the consulates be at the service of expatriates,” explains Sánchez, who promises that if he wins the seat he will be a deputy “listening to the citizens who have elected me.” He believes that his bad experience with the Spanish Consulate in Toulouse when doing administrative procedures could help him to try to improve the services of the French consulates in Spain.

Voting formulas

Legislative elections are two rounds. French residents abroad can vote at the polls, online, by mail or by proxy. There are about 150 candidates for the 11 constituencies that are at stake abroad.

Of the 1.15 million French registered in the consular electoral lists, some 250,000 have already voted ‘online’ in the first round. Some 20,000 have done so in the fifth constituency. Although not all those who wanted to vote electronically have been able to do so, as there were some technical problems.

This Sunday French residents in Spain will be able to cast their vote at the polls in the consulates. In France, the first round will take place on June 12. French expatriates will once again have the option to vote online in the second round or do it physically on June 19, like the rest of the French, to decide who will represent them in the National Assembly for the next five years.

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