Candidates' last chance for endorsements

16th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 16, 2007 (AFP) - Fringe candidates for the French presidency were in a last-minute scramble for signatures on Friday, as the evening deadline approached for mandatory sponsorship forms to be filed with election monitors in Paris.

PARIS, March 16, 2007 (AFP) - Fringe candidates for the French presidency were in a last-minute scramble for signatures on Friday, as the evening deadline approached for mandatory sponsorship forms to be filed with election monitors in Paris.

Three outside contenders -- including anti-capitalism campaigner Jose Bove -- were tantalisingly close to the 500 sponsorship minimum without being certain of having the required number by the 6.00 pm. (1700 GMT) cut-off time.

The other two engaged in a desperate telephone search for supporters were the hunters' candidate Frederic Nihous and dissident Gaullist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.

Under rules designed to weed out frivolous candidacies, challengers for the French presidency must have the public backing of 500 out of some 42,000 elected officials, including the country's 36,500 mayors.

Sponsorship forms must be presented at the Paris offices of the Constitutional Council, the nine-member body that supervises the election, which will verify the signatures over the weekend and announce an official list of candidates on Wednesday.

Ten candidates are certain of qualifying.

The four leading challengers -- according to polls -- are Nicolas Sarkozy of the ruling centre-right, the socialist Segolene Royal, the centrist Francois Bayrou, and the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The other definite candidates are the communist Marie-George Buffet,  Catholic nationalist Philippe de Villiers, the three Trotskyists Gerard Schivardi, Arlette Laguiller and Olivier Besancenot, and the Green Party's Dominique Voynet.

Le Pen, who was runner-up in 2002 with 16.86 percent of the first round vote, said he faced great difficulties collecting the signatures but reached the necessary 500 on Wednesday.

In 2002 16 candidates took part, a record in modern French politics. The large number helped reduce the score of the leading contenders and was a factor in Le Pen's shock success in making it into the second round run-off vote.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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