France to know who will be a presidential candidate

19th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 19, 2007 (AFP) - The official list of candidates for the French presidency is to be released on Monday as a question mark hangs over the bid by anti-globalisation crusader Jose Bove to get his name on the ballot.

PARIS, March 19, 2007 (AFP) - The official list of candidates for the French presidency is to be released on Monday as a question mark hangs over the bid by anti-globalisation crusader Jose Bove to get his name on the ballot.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, the candidate of the governing rightwing party, Socialist Segolene Royal and centrist Francois Bayrou are among the 11 candidates who are all but certain to be on the list.

Bove, 53, became a household name after he attacked a McDonald's outlet in southern France in 1999 to protest "la malbouffe" or bad food.

He said he had presented 504 signed sponsorship forms to the Constitutional Council by last Friday's deadline.

But it remained unclear whether the endorsements would be considered valid by the Council, the body that supervises the election and which verified the signatures over the weekend.

Under French rules, presidential hopefuls must collect 500 endorsements from mayors and other elected officials to qualify as a candidate for the April 22 vote.

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. The first round will see half a dozen contenders alone from the left and far-left battle it out -- an exception in Europe.

"According to our calculations, we should have the 500 signatures, but we don't have the official confirmation," Bove told a news conference on Friday. He said his candidacy hinged on "four or five signatures that could go either way."

The uncertainty surrounding Bove's bid followed weeks of complaints from far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who accused political rivals of pressuring mayors to withhold their support and freeze him out of the race.

Le Pen, who stunned the nation when he qualified for the second round of voting against Jacques Chirac in 2002, finally announced last week that he had passed the 500-signature threshold.

If Bove makes it on to the ballot, he will be the seventh candidate in a crowded field of left and far-left candidates that are making the French election unique in Europe.

Postman Olivier Besancenot of the Revolutionary Communist League, Workers' Struggle candidate Arlette Laguiller, Communist Party Marie-George Buffet and small-town mayor Gerard Schivardi, whose candidacy is backed by the Workers' Party, are campaigning for increased wages and notably measures to bar companies from firing staff.

The Socialist frontrunner Royal also faces a fringe challenge from the Green Party candidate and former environment minister Dominique Voynet, whose party has governed with previous left-wing governments.

Polls however show that the combined vote of the left, excluding Royal, totals less than 10 percent, its lowest level since 1961.

Royal is currently credited with 24 percent of first round votes, ahead of 22 percent for Bayrou, but trailing behind Sarkozy on 31 percent, according to a TNS-Sofres survey released Sunday.

The French left was sent reeling in 2002 when Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin was knocked out of the second round of voting, with analysts pointing to the large number of leftist candidates on the ballot as having split the vote.

Other candidates in the running are nationalist Philippe de Villiers and Frederic Nihous of the Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions party.

The official list is to be released at 17:30 pm (1630 GMT).

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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