The National Cybersecurity Agency claimed that an "extremely high risk" of cyberattacks led to the decision "that it would be better to take no risk that might jeopardize the legislative vote for French citizens residing abroad," according to a Ministry statement.
France holds national elections every five years, with a presidential race in April and May, and a parliamentary election in June. In 2012, for the first time, the estimated 2 million French citizens living abroad were given the opportunity to vote in the legislative, but not the presidential, election.
The fear in France is that Russian hackers will attempt to interfere in the French election, as they are purported to have done in the American election. There is no evidence of any Russian interference in the actual US voting process, and the US intelligence community's allegations point, instead, to accusations that Russian hackers leaked confidential information to WikiLeaks to undermine the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Moscow has strenuously denied the allegations, as has WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.
Emmanuel Macron, the French candidate of the progressive En Marche! Party, who has consistently held second place in first-round presidential polling, has claimed that he is being targeted by Russian media and hackers to weaken his campaign in favor of a more pro-Moscow candidate such as Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Front party.
"We are accusing Russia Today [RT] and Sputnik News [of being] the first source of false information shared about our candidate and all the other symbiotic ways of working with all these fascist organizations or extreme right news organizations," said Macron's digital campaign manager Mounir Mahjoubi in a Sunday interview with Sky News.
This echoed similar claims made by En Marche! Secretary-General Richard Ferrand in February. "We are in the presence of an orchestrated attempt to destabilize a candidate in the presidential election by a foreign power," he said in an interview with Le Monde.
RT and Sputnik editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, as well as Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov have both rejected En Marche!'s claims, with Peskov calling them "absurd" and Simonyan referring to the comments as "flattering" and "quite funny."
"It seems that it has become acceptable to level such serious charges at Russia Today without presenting any evidence to substantiate them, as well as to apply this 'fake news' label to any reporting that one might simply find unfavorable," said RT in a statement.