There are a total of 11 French overseas voting districts around the world. Here is what the world looks like during a French election:
The 1st district is the US and Canada and they are represented at this time by Frédéric Lefebvre. The 11th district includes Eastern Europe, Asia, and Oceania - from the Kara, Barents and Laptev seas all the way south to the Indian Ocean and the Tasman Sea. The current representative for this district is Thierry Mariani. Follow the links to find out what they have done and what they are working on. Full disclosure: I have voters in my family in both districts.
There is no rule that candidates must live in or have connections to the overseas district they will represent. And neither Mariani and Lefebvre appear to have lived abroad, though Mariani has a Russian (naturalized French) wife and both candidates have travelled widely.
Is that an issue? Well, Mariani is running for a second term but it just so happens that there are two candidate challenging him for this seat who are a long-term residents of Asia: Francis Nizet and Anne Genetet. Both are making overseas experience a campaign issue.
Francis Nizet has been a French abroad for nearly 30 years. He has lived and worked in Africa, Southeast Asia and now lives in Beijing, China with his family. An engineer by training and profession, he now a professor of science at a Chinese university. His running-mate (the person who would replace him if he were incapacitated) is Françoise Nédélec a lawyer by training who moved to China in 1994, first to Shanghai and then to Beijing where she is now the director of the Latin Languages program at the International School of Beijing.
Anne Genetet has lived in Singapore for over 10 years. A doctor by training and profession in France, she was "deskilled" in Singapore because she could not get her professional credentials recognized. (Yes, folks, that is part of the "real world of many expat/migrants.) So she became a consultant and journalist.
Both of these candidates are playing up their experience living abroad saying essentially, "We know the concerns of our fellow French expatriates because we are you." "Je connais vos preoccupations, je saurai faire avancer ces dossiers avec tenacite." (I know your concerns and I will know how to tenaciously make progress on those issues.") said Francis Nizet. In an interview Genetet talked about the positive reactions of her compatriots abroad to her candidacy saying, "What I've heard from the people I've met is that they are so happy to have a candidate who knows what it's like to be a French national living abroad."
And that raises an interesting question, doesn't it? If you voted from abroad and had direct representation would you rather have a representative who has also lived abroad (perhaps in your region)? Or would you prefer to elect someone well connected to the political world in the home country?