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At least 10 candidates on campaign starting line

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2012-03-18

While voters waited for the official list of candidates who will be on France’s April 22 presidential election ballot, ten candidates have already told the press they had the endorsements needed to join the race.

This year’s French presidential campaign begins in earnest on Monday, when the Constitutional Council will unveil the names of the candidates who gathered the 500 endorsements needed to join the race.

Ten presidential hopefuls told the media on Friday they had enough backing to officially join the 2012 election. The Council said it would confirm over the weekend if each of the potential candidates fulfilled the obligation to collect a minimum of 500 signatures from mayors and elected officials.

The unveiling of the names that will appear on the April 22 ballot would officially open a contest that has effectively been underway for months.

The ten would-be candidates who said they presented at least 500 signatures were incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande of the Socialist Party, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, centrist François Bayrou, Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Left Front coalition, Green party candidate Eva Joly, right-wing eurosceptic Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Trotskyites Nathalie Arthaud and Philippe Poutou, and Jacques Cheminade, who describes himself as a “left-wing Gaullist”.

Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin announced on Friday on his campaign website that he did not have enough endorsements to join the presidential race.

Ecology-minded centrist Corrine Lepage said she would present only 470 signatures to election officials, but claimed that some additional endorsements for her candidacy could have been sent directly to the Council.

Both Villepin and Lepage complained that many mayors were unwilling to hand over their coveted signatures this year. They criticised the major political parties for putting unfair pressure on small-town mayors to withhold their endorsements.

There were 12 presidential candidates on the first round ballot of France’s last election in 2007. Sixteen rivals squared off in the 2002 vote.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of all first round ballots–by far the most likely scenario–a runoff between the two top vote getters will be held on May 6.

Numbers game

Half the ten candidates who said they would take part in this year’s election were struggling to gather more than 2 percent of voter intentions for the election’s first round, recent opinion polls showed.

Despite the wide difference in popularity, French law stipulates that all of the official candidates would have the same visibility and airtime on media outlets starting from March 20.

Socialist François Hollande had been cast as the frontrunner for months, but the incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy had caught up with the leader in recent days, polls indicated. Both men counted around 27% support among voters in the first round.

French polling firms said Marine Le Pen of the anti-immigration National Front was hovering above 15%, while François Bayrou of the Democratic Movement party was on track to win 12% of ballots.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a left-wing leader who forged an alliance the with French Communist Party for the election, had risen above the symbolic 10% mark in recent days, studies showed.

In the past five weeks four well-known presidential hopefuls dropped out of the race. Social conservative Christine Boutin, centrist Hervé Morin and rural right-winger Frédérick Nihous quit to endorse Sarkozy. Left-wing nationalist Jean-Pierre Chevenement threw in the towel and eventually backed Hollande.

Date created : 2012-03-17


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