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France

French politicians refuse to help far right's Le Pen

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-02-14

France's mainstream parties dismissed suggestions they should lend a helping hand to Marine Le Pen on Monday. The far right leader unveiled her manifesto but is struggling to gain enough mayoral signatures to run in April’s presidential elections.

Politicians among France’s mainstream parties were embroiled in a row on Monday over whether to come to the aid of the far right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen who leads the National Front party launched her presidential manifesto on Monday, but is still not legally allowed to run in the elections for the Elysée Palace.
 
To do so she needs signatures of support from 500 of France’s local mayors, but her party revealed on Monday they were still around 140 short. The first round of voting is now just under ten weeks away on April 22.
 
This week centrist presidential candidate Francois Bayrou called for France’s mainstream political groups, the UMP led by President Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, to lend a helping hand or two to Le Pen.
 
The far right leader is regularly polling around 17 percent of the country’s vote and it is inconceivable to most that her name will not be on the ballot paper on April 22.
 
Bayrou, who heads the Democratic Movement Party (MoDem), believes Le Pen’s absence in the first round of elections on April 22 would create “disorder” around the ballot.
 
If the mainstream parties were game to discuss the issue then so was he, Bayrou said, because “democracy is more important than political parties”.
 
 “If there is a political movement, even one that I have fought against all my life, that is backed by a large number of French people but cannot express itself then it is an issue for all supporters of democracy in France,” Bayrou argued.
 
His contentious proposal would appear to have the backing of the French public. An opinion poll taken last month revealed 70 percent of the public believe it would be bad for democracy if Marine le Pen was unable to take part in the presidential elections.
 
“Backroom politics”
 
But even if it had public backing, the notion that local mayors would simply sign up to back Le Pen against their wishes was ridiculed by the heavyweight parties.
 
“An election is supposed to be a meeting between a man or a woman - meaning the candidate and the people,” Manuel Valls, director of communications for Francois Hollande, told Europe 1 radio station. “It is not about meeting up in a backroom to divide up signatures saying ‘Here you have this county and I’ll have this mayor’,” he said.
 
Xavier Bertrand, Labour Minster for Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party also rejected a request to discuss the issue.
 
“I am mayor of Saint-Quentin. My signature will go to Nicolas Sarkozy and nobody else,” he said.
 
Green Party presidential candidate Eva Joly also waded into the row. “Its not my problem so don’t count on me,” she said. “Rules are rules and they should be respected.”
 
For her part Marine Le Pen insisted on Monday that she would not be “begging” mayors for their signatures. Her preferred solution to a growing predicament is a change in the law which would allow the officials to give signatures anonymously.
 
The question of whether the National Front will gain enough signatures is not new to the 2012 presidential election, a point not missed by politicians and the French press.
 
Many believe it is just a stunt to gain attention.
 
“It’s the same old song at every election,” said left wing newspaper Humanite. “Apart from 1981, the far right has always managed to put forward a candidate”.
 
Humanite’s views were backed by Prime Minister Francois Fillon.
 
“She will have enough signatures. The National Front play this game every election,” Fillon said in an interview with French daily Le Monde.
 
A “transparent”country
 
Le Pen shrugged off the issue Monday to announce her presidential manifesto.
 
In a clear bit of electioneering, Le Pen vowed to cut the number of MPs and senators from 925 to 750 and reduce the salaries of both the head of state and ministers.  She also said all their expense accounts would be published on the internet and elected representatives would have their pensions capped at €5,000 a month.
 
Her proposals would create an “exemplary”, rigorous” and “transparent” country, Le Pen insisted. She also vowed to destroy the political structures and reconcile “the elite and the people”.
 
The proposals were announced outside the Palais de d’Iéna in Paris, home to the Economic, Social and Environment Council (CESE). It was a “symbolic” location Le Pen said because it was an example of a costly and “useless” state institution, which she vowed to tackle.
 
Le Pen is unlikely to win enough support to ever be in a position to introduce these proposals. But what is more worrying for her is whether she will even get the opportunity to campaign on them.
 
With her rivals turning their back on her she will need to find support from somewhere.

Date created : 2012-02-13

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