French turn out to vote in Australia

French nationals in Australia began voting Sunday in the second round of presidential elections in which President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing Socialist Francois Hollande.

Those living in Canada, the United States and South America went to the polls Saturday, casting their ballots a day ahead of their compatriots in France.

In Australia, where close to 15,000 people are eligible to vote, electors began arriving shortly before polls opened at 8:00 am (2200 GMT Saturday) at Sydney's French consulate, one of eight polling centres in the country.

"I'm proud to do that," Marcelle Vettier, a resident of Australia for almost four decades, said in English after casting her vote.

"As a French citizen I take that from the bottom of my heart -- as well as being faithful to the country where I am."

Others said it was important to cast their vote in the French elections, given the global impact of the economic crisis in Europe.

"What I believe is that this election is very important because of the global crisis and now what has become the European crisis," said Christiane Frisch, speaking in English.

"The French position and French policies will have an impact, not just in Europe but in the whole world, including in Australia."

Frisch, who has been living in Australia since 1982, said it was important that French people living in other countries maintained their right to vote.

About 5,000 French nationals were also expected at polling booths in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch in New Zealand on Sunday.

About 46 million people will go to the polls in France on Sunday for the election.

Political speeches and new opinion polls have been banned since a particularly ferocious campaign ended on Friday night.

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