Candidates collect signatures to get on the ballot

22nd February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 22, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential candidates on Thursday began gathering signatures needed to qualify for the April-May election as a question mark hung over far-right leader Jean Marie Le Pen's bid to win endorsements.

PARIS, Feb 22, 2007 (AFP) - French presidential candidates on Thursday began gathering signatures needed to qualify for the April-May election as a question mark hung over far-right leader Jean Marie Le Pen's bid to win endorsements.

The candidates have until March 16 to collect 500 signatures from elected mayors, deputies, senators or councillors to get their name on the ballot.

For frontrunners Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal, collecting 500 signatures is a mere formality but Le Pen has complained that he could be locked out of the race for failing to meet the requirement.

"Everyone or almost everyone agrees that it would be scandalous and damaging to democracy and the Republic if I were not able to stand as a candidate because of a shortfall of endorsements," Le Pen said last week as he appealed for support.

The leader of the National Front complained about the same hurdle during the 2002 election but went on to qualify for the vote and later stunned the nation by facing off against Jacques Chirac in the second round of voting.

The 78-year-old far-right leader, who is making his fifth bid for the presidency, failed in 1981 to collect the 500 signatures.

He is facing competition in this election from another far-right candidate, Philippe de Villiers, of the Movement for France, who is campaigning on an anti-Europe, traditionalist platform.

Le Pen said he had won between 460 and 500 promises of support, but that he was "worried" that they might not materialize into written endorsements.

Under the procedure, the mayors and other elected officials fill out a form officially endorsing a candidate that is sent to the constitutional council, the body that decides on the eligibility of candidates.

The collection of the 500 endorsements is a complicated undertaking for candidates of smaller parties who have little representation at other levels of government.

Of the 44 candidates who have announced their intention to stand, more than half of them are expected to be eliminated after March 16.

Anti-globalisation campaigner Jose Bove, who has 260 signatures, has accused the major parties of trying to "muzzle democracy" by instructing their mayors and elected members to back only their candidates.

Green Party candidate Dominique Voynet also complained that collecting the 500 signatures had become "very difficult" after the major parties had given orders to locally-elected members to toe the line.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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