Hundreds of French Asians gathered Tuesday in Paris to sound out the main parties in this week’s presidential election in the name of their community, estimated at some 400,000 voters.
The non-partisan rally at the French Senate drew some 300 people, from China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, as well as representatives of the right-wing presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy, the Socalist Segolene Royal and the centrist Francois Bayrou.
Several participants called for a big push to more Asian immigrants into French politics, where they, like other ethnic minorities, are severely underrepresented.
“It is time for us to commit, visibly, actively and constructively,” said an official from the Initiative Club for French people of Asian Origin (CIFOA) which organised the event.
“It’s a shame there are no French people of Asian origin in the National Assembly. Our parents’ priorities were to work to feed the familyit’s up to us to get involved in politics,” said Thanh, whose parents left Saigon as boat people when he was a baby.
Asked about the candidates, many of the participants said they were backing the right-winger Sarkozy.
“Let’s not beat around the bush. The great majority of us vote on the right. We came here to escape Communism,” said Mai Linh, a refugee from Vietnam who lives in the Paris region.
“I voted with my feet in 1975, when the Communists came to power (in Vietnam), so I’m hardly going to give my vote to the left,” said Vongsavanh, originally from Laos.
Thanh said he was “for the right, but the soft right. ‘Sarko’ scares me, so for me it will be Bayrou.”
But among the younger generation of Asian immigrants, voices were also raised for the left-winger Royal.
“Just because our parents didn’t like the left, it doesn’t mean we have to vote like them,” said one participant.
According to the CIFOA, there are around 1,253,000 Asians living in France, around half of whom have French nationality.