A glamorous French politician is set to become France’s first ever ‘MP for Britain’ to represent more than 100,000 Gallic expats living in the UK.
Emmanuelle Savarit, 39, is leading the race to be elected to France’s newest overseas constituency - based in London’s well-heeled Kensington.
The member of Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party is the clear frontrunner among five hopefuls vying for the seat of northern Europe.
Hopeful: Emmanuelle Savarit, 39, is leading the race to be elected to France's newest overseas constituency - based in London's well-heeled Kensington
The radical plans to create 11 foreign constituencies to represent French abroad were approved by the Paris parliament three years ago.
Britain is part of the northern Europe constituency, which also includes the Irish Republic, Scandinavia and the Baltic states.
But within the new seat, 113,655 French voters are registered in the UK, compared with 27,076 in all the other countries put together.
Divorced mother-of-two Ms Savarit’s main rival is equally glamorous 36-year-old socialist Axelle Lemaire, a London-based lawyer.
Competition: Divorced mother-of-two Ms Savarit's main rival is 36-year-old socialist Axelle Lemaire, a London-based lawyer
But the French media predict the right-winger’s victory will be ensured by wealthy expats based mainly in west London when the first election takes place in June.
Ms Savarit, who has a doctorate in Psychology, describes herself
on her campaign website as ‘a tough cookie’, but adds: 'That’s not necessarily a fault when you’re in politics.'
The new foreign constituencies are the brainchild of former French interior affairs minister Alain Marlaix.
Vital: The importance of the French expat vote was highlighted when President Sarkozy came to London to give a speech to thousands of French voters ahead of his 2007 election campaign
He said: 'This is the first time in any country in the world that something like this had been done.
'The new overseas MPs will have identical status to any other MP based in France, and vote in parliament in Paris.
'They will be elected in the same way and speak for the French expatriates they represent.'
Government advisor Herve Fabre-Aubrespy, who is overseeing the new constituencies, said: 'It is a challenge for us, because nothing similar has ever been done anywhere.
'No one has carved the world up into constituencies in this way.'
The new constituencies are part of a larger parliamentary shake-up, with seats being merged or enlarged across France so that the total number of 577 MPs still remains the same.
The importance of the French expat vote was highlighted when President Sarkozy came to London to give a speech to thousands of French voters ahead of his 2007 election campaign.
But French socialists have claimed the new overseas seats are ‘closet gerrymandering’ - where constituencies are created to the benefit of the ruling party.
A socialists’ spokesman said: 'Studies show French people living abroad are more likely to vote for a centre-right party than a left wing one.
'This is being proposed as something that is good for French expatriates, but in fact it is just a way for the government to give itself another 11 safe seats.'
Six of the 11 new constituencies will be in Europe, but others are based in Canada and the US, central and South America, the Middle East, Arica and Asia, representing more than million French people living abroad.