23/04/2017 16:06 BST

French Presidential Elections See 'Three Hour Wait' To Vote In London

'Bad organisation in French Embassy.'

French citizens living in London have complained of three hour long waits to vote in the presidential elections.

Voters said they felt organisers were “discouraging” voters with “bad organisation” at polling stations.

PA Wire/PA Images
French citizens in London have complained about three hours waits to vote

Alexandra Marquez, who lives in Clapham, told the Evening Standard: “I got to the French Embassy at 11am and I’ve been asked to join the end of the queue three blocks away.

The 24-year-old continued: “I’ve been told the waiting time was three hours. I’m glad to see that there is such a big turn up for these elections, but it’s bad organisation.

“Why isn’t there more places open we can go to vote to? It makes it really discouraging and annoying.”

Others echoed Marquez’s sentiments on social media, while some were keen to point out the lines simply showed the French were taking voting “very seriously”.

France is going to the polls to appoint the successor to Francois Hollande, who is not running after serving a single term in office. Nine candidates will be eliminated in Sunday’s vote. 

Twenty Five polling stations were set in London up to cater for an expected 50,000 voters.

The election comes against a backdrop of terrorist attacks in France, including one in Paris on Thursday in which a gunman carrying a note praising Islamic State killed a police officer before being shot dead himself.

British police officers were stationed around the polling stations in South Kensington as long queues wrapped around the block as people queued patiently - often with their children in tow - to cast their vote.

POOL New / Reuters
France is going to the polls to appoint the successor to Francois Hollande

Eleven candidates will contest Sunday’s first round of voting, with the frontrunners including centre-left candidate Emmanuel Macron, the far-right Front National’s Marine Le Pen, the Gaullist Francois Fillon and leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Edouard de Guitaut, volunteer president of one of the polling stations at the lycee, said there had been a surge in registrations since the Brexit vote in June last year.

He said: “The French population (in the UK) has increased, in fact it increased quite massively.

“The number of French people who registered to vote here and registered their details at the French consulate increased by about 10% in the last year, post Brexit vote.

“A lot of them were worried and wanted to feel they had some administrative contacts here that they could call on if they needed to.

“So, we have a big pool of voters, we expect 50,000 French citizens to vote here in South Kensington and in my polling station I expect about 1,200 voters compared to about 800 five years ago.”

Charles Platiau / Reuters
British bookmaker Coral has Front National leader, Maine Le Pen, 4-6 favourite to take the most votes in the first round of voting

Polling stations have also been set up in Wembley, Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh for the large expatriate community to cast their votes, with 70 polling stations in total across the UK.

The last opinion polls before voting opened showed Le Pen and Macron narrowly ahead of Fillon and Melenchon, but it is being billed as one of the most unpredictable elections in generations.

British bookmaker Coral made the controversial far-right leader le Pen the 4-6 favourite to take the most votes in the first round of voting.

If a candidate reaches 50% on Sunday they win, but if not the top two will go head-to-head in a decisive second round of voting on May 7.

De Guitaut added: “It’s the first time since the Second World War that you don’t have the two main parties that are leading the polls.

“You have four candidates and it would be a very brave person or pundit to predict who the first two will be.

“I have an idea who one of them will be but I can’t tell you, but we will know soon enough.”