12 candidates to run for French presidency

20th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 19, 2007 (AFP) - Twelve candidates including the far-right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen and anti-globalisation icon Jose Bove are to run in next month's French presidential election, France's Constitutional Council said Monday.

PARIS, March 19, 2007 (AFP) - Twelve candidates including the far-right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen and anti-globalisation icon Jose Bove are to run in next month's French presidential election, France's Constitutional Council said Monday.

Right-wing favourite Nicolas Sarkozy, 52, Socialist Segolene Royal, 53, and centrist Francois Bayrou, 55, lead the pack of 12 candidates who secured the 500 sponsorships from mayors and elected officials needed in order to qualify.

The 78-year-old Le Pen, who had accused rivals of pressuring mayors to freeze him out of the race, also qualified, along with the farmer-activist Bove, 53, who scraped in with just over 500 signatures.

On the left the other candidates are postman Olivier Besancenot of the Revolutionary Communist League, Workers' Struggle candidate Arlette Laguiller, Communist Party Marie-George Buffet, small-town mayor Gerard Schivardi and the Green Party candidate Dominique Voynet.

On the right, the fourth challenger is the nationalist Philippe de Villiers of the Movement for France, while Frederic Nihous of the Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions party is standing on a single-issue ticket.

Under rules designed to weed out frivolous candidacies, would-be contenders had until Friday to submit 500 official endorsements to the Constitutional Council, the body that supervises the election.

More than 40 contenders -- many of them single-issue campaigners with no political support base -- had initially thrown their hat into the ring.

The council worked through the weekend to establish the validity of the sponsorships.

Bove, who became a household name after he attacked a McDonald's outlet in southern France in 1999 to protest "la malbouffe" or bad food, had mustered 504 sponsorship forms -- but was unsure whether all would be considered valid.

He becomes the seventh candidate in a crowded field of left and far-left candidates, three of whom -- Besancenot, Laguiller and Schivardi -- are calling for measures to make it illegal for companies to fire staff.

This year's line-up also includes four women, the highest share in any French presidential campaign. For the first time, one of them -- Royal -- is running with a chance of success, even if her star has faded in recent weeks.

But the overall number of candidates is number is considerably lower than in 2002, when a record 16 contenders contested the first round.

Analysts pointed to the large number of left-wing candidates as a reason for Le Pen's shock presence in the second round, after he edged out the Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin.

Sarkozy currently leads the election race, with 31 percent of first round votes, ahead of Royal on 26 percent and Bayrou with 22 percent, according to an LH2 poll for RMC-BFM TV-20 Minutes releases on Monday. National Front leader Le Pen comes fourth with 12.5 percent.

No other candidate musters more than 2.5 percent but from Tuesday, French media will have to follow strict rules dividing air-time equally between all candidates -- a potential boost to smaller contenders.

A second round of voting is set for May 6 between the two top candidates, as no one is expected to win an outright majority. In the event of a run-off against Royal, Sarkozy would win by 52 to 48 percent, according to LH2.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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