French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, the centrist Republic On the Move (La République en marche or LREM), has taken the lead in 10 out of 11 overseas constituencies in the first round of voting in French legislative elections. The party’s candidate Anne Genetet, a long-time Singapore-based expat, took 55% of votes, comfortably ahead of the incumbent Thierry Mariani of The Republicans, and 12 other candidates. If successful, Genetet will represent more than 100,000 French nationals living in 49 countries in a constituency that covers Russia, most of Asia, and Oceania. Shanghaiist sat down with her for a quick chat to find out what made her take the leap into politics.
You have been living in Singapore since 2005, running your own consulting company, living your life, taking care of your four kids. What was it about Emmanuel Macron that inspired you to enter politics and to stand as a candidate for his new party?
My entry into politics is not a break with my previous work, but rather, a natural extension of it. I am a doctor and a medical journalist, I have worked at aid organisations for foreign domestic helpers, and all these occupations involve listening to and helping others. Listening to and helping others – this is my vision of political action. Furthermore, through my consultancy work in healthcare, I have learned to share knowledge and to provide training. Once again, transmission and sharing to serve the common good is my understanding of the work of a member of parliament.
This being said, the Macron method was indeed a trigger for my commitment. Gathering information in the field in order to change things, I believe that’s how we need to proceed. And this is indeed how Emmanuel Macron’s programme was developed. The programme that I am defending today is the result of consultations in the field, in order to address real concerns. Macron has understood the exasperation felt by the French, who are tired of not being heard. One of the concerns of the French nationals abroad, is to be listened to more frequently and more accurately by the government in Paris, and to take part in reforms that directly address their expectations.
Have you always been a centrist? How have you voted in past elections? Are you able to give us examples of where you differ from Macron’s views on a key issue?
I never belonged to a political party before making a commitment to work alongside Emmanuel Macron. I always voted according to my convictions, and my convictions have never been dictated by a political party. They are the result of my personal and professional experience. The values championed by La République en Marche! are the perfect illustration of what I have always believed in: combating exclusion, bigotry, and isolationism. This is why I fully support the programme driven by Emmanuel Macron: recapturing a winning spirit to build a new France, the much-needed reform of the national education system, simplifying labour laws, modernising our economy, strengthening national security, democratic revival, and finally, building an ambitious Europe. It is a question of providing President Macron with a strong majority so that he can implement his programme, a programme that is ambitious, progressive, and open to the world; and I will dedicate my energy and my determination to its implementation.
Anne Genetet speaking to supporters in Shanghai
Macron received 89.3 percent of votes from French citizens abroad. Many of those votes were more likely a vote against Marine Le Pen, rather than a vote for Macron. Considering En Marche is a new party without the political machinery of the more established parties, how well is this going to translate into votes for the upcoming parliamentary election?
I believe that the French are ready to provide their new president with a parliamentary majority so that he can carry out reforms. To them, the fact that La République En Marche! is a young party is actually an asset: it is free from cumbersome traditional party apparatus and personal power struggles, peculiar to old parties. These are also some of the things that the French rejected by electing Emmanuel Macron. Above all, many French nationals abroad identify with the La République en Marche! approach, which is not one-sided, which defends an actual reform plan in a pragmatic manner, which serves the common good, and which moves beyond ideological labels and affiliations.
China is home to the largest number of French expats in the 11th constituency for French residents overseas, which you’re seeking to represent. This week, you’ve been flying from Shanghai to Beijing and Hong Kong to speak with voters. What have you been hearing from them? What did you say to them?
The priorities conveyed to us by the French expatriates in China are quite similar to those of all our fellow citizens in the 11th constituency of French nationals abroad. Four priorities appear more frequently than others:
- Education: already at the heart of President Macron’s plan, but taking on a different dimension in China because of the distance from home and also because it is sometimes difficult to have access to education for some of our fellow citizens, scholarships, school fees,
- Financial and administrative conditions in case repatriation,
- Tax unfairness with the issue of CSG (General Welfare Contribution) / CRDS (Social Debt Repayment Contribution),
- And finally, an economic component with support to businesses and incentives for innovation and creativity.
As a member of parliament, I will focus on 2 areas: responding to the above concerns, and at the same time, vigorously defending the President’s plan for the transformation of our society. I would like the French nationals living in China to know that I will do my utmost to make sure that they are heard, represented and supported in their daily lives.
Explain to us, if you will, the platform that you are running on.
Education has been defined as a priority, both at the national level and within our constituency, since it’s a major concern for expatriate families. It is a matter of granting better access to the school network, by increasing the offer with new possibilities for funding, or by facilitating access to education for lower income families. It is also about enhancing the curriculum with multilingual schemes by developing OIB (International Option Baccalaureate) and by providing IB (International Baccalaureate) as an option.
We want to strengthen social protection for French nationals or to support them when they fall on hard times by promoting CFE (Social Security Fund for expatriates) and by providing a deduction on premiums for the young to encourage them to join the Fund, for instance.
Regarding pensions, our proposal focuses, among others, on taking greater account of the quarters worked abroad.
Tax fairness between French nationals in Europe and abroad is another challenge that we wish to tackle, especially with regard to the issue of CSG-CRDS and its application regime, which is a frequently raised issue that we want to overhaul.
There’s an economic component, with a special focus on very small businesses and SMEs, which are innovative and driven by dynamic entrepreneurs. Let’s help them to break free from the isolation that they are complaining about: there are many players that can help them achieve this, such as Business France, BPI or the Chambers of Commerce. Let’s coordinate their activities to support them and enhance their effectiveness. I really believe that by establishing a network effect and a one-stop-shop to help businesses regardless of their size, we can help them develop internationally.
So these are some of the actual measures that we are proposing to take; we are working on these measures actively and collectively, with a view to building a new France.
The incumbent for the constituency Thierry Mariani, a member of The Republicans, is contesting the seat again. He has deep ties with the French community in China. What will you be doing differently from him?
I prefer goodwill and honesty to easy criticism or personal attacks. I would therefore like to commend Mr. Mariani’s regular National Assembly attendance. Nevertheless, the French want a radical renewal, with staff hailing from civil society. They do not want career politicians like Mr. Mariani, who has been politically active for nearly 25 years. They also want a new way of doing politics. I come from civil society; my fresh outlook and skills acquired in areas other than politics will allow me to contribute to the reforms of the presidential programme, while at the same time defending the interests of French nationals living abroad. With the commitment that I have always shown to my fellow citizens, I plan on being a full-time member of parliament. I also plan on bringing forward proposals by identifying the best practices within the constituency in order to share and promote them more generally.
If successful, you’ll have to spend six to eight months doing parliamentary work in Paris. Are you sure you’re ready for this? And doesn’t this take time away from being in touch with your constituents who are spread over a massive area, from Russia all the way to New Zealand? How will you manage all this?
Yes, I feel ready to perform my duties wholeheartedly. I plan on serving diligently at the National Assembly if I am elected.
No, I will not be disconnected from my constituents. I will remain present, despite the distance. I will travel and I will personally listen to the residents. But I will also use digital tools, which make physical distances disappear. I will create a new platform to be directly connected to the residents of the 11th constituency. I will also draw on the methods used by different outgoing members of parliament, who were the first ones to try out their methods. To me, being a member of parliament also means listening to others and sharing.
What do you think of your results in the first round of the voting?
First of all I want to thank all the French citizens who participated in this first round of the parliamentary election on the 4th of June. A majority of them has voted for me. I am quite aware of the special responsibility that comes with 55% of the votes. It is a great honour for me to represent La Republique en Marche! (LREM), the party created by Emmanuel Macron, in our constituency. With their vote on June 4, my fellow citizens have strongly voiced their support for the deep transformation of our nation wanted by our President.
Thierry Mariani, the incumbent member of parliament from the opposition party Les Républicains, has obtained 19% of the votes. While we were 14 candidates in the first round, voters will have a very clear choice on June 18 between M. Mariani and myself.
I remain actively committed in the second round, with several trips planned in the region, including Hong Kong, Seoul, Mumbai, and Pondicherry, where I will continue to promote LREM’s strong platform for France’s revival.
Any final words for the China-based voters who may still be indifferent about voting in the parliamentary elections?
As I said earlier, I am making a commitment to address their concerns. For the first time in many years, we have a unique opportunity to renew French political staff and to reform the country. I believe that it is possible. Let’s seize this opportunity and let’s give a strong parliamentary majority to President Macron by going to the ballot box on 18 June!