Le Pen secures place in Presidential election

14th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 14, 2007 (AFP) - Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French far-right, is certain to take part in next month's presidential election after collecting the 500 necessary sponsors, his National Front (FN) party said Wednesday.

PARIS, March 14, 2007 (AFP) - Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French far-right, is certain to take part in next month's presidential election after collecting the 500 necessary sponsors, his National Front (FN) party said Wednesday.

But a host of extremist and fringe candidates face a desperate race against the clock to get the necessary signatures before a Friday deadline.

FN secretary general Louis Aliot said Le Pen, 78, would in person deliver the sponsorship forms on Wednesday to the Constitutional Council, the body in charge of running the election.

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 as well as parliamentary deputies and local and regional councillors.

Le Pen had complained of difficulties collecting the signatures, saying that many mayors feared retribution if they supported him.

After founding the far-right party in 1972, the former paratrooper has been a candidate in every presidential election since 1974 -- except in 1981 when he failed to obtain the 500 sponsorships.

Le Pen was surprise runner-up in the 2002 election, when he won 16.86 percent of the first-round vote, ahead of the socialist Lionel Jospin. An Ipsos poll Wednesday gave him 13 percent of the first-round vote on April 22.

Last week the right-wing candidate Nicolas Sarkozy said it would be "undemocratic" if Le Pen -- as well as candidates from the far-left -- were excluded from the vote.

He urged non-aligned mayors to provide Le Pen with signatures in order to ensure his participation.

The deadline for the signatures to be filed falls on Friday, and the official list of candidates will be published on Monday.

Nine candidates seem certain of qualifying, and four others might be able to.

The definites are Sarkozy, Le Pen, the socialist Segolene Royal, the centrist Francois Bayrou, the communist Marie-George Buffet, the Catholic nationalist Philippe de Villiers, Gerard Schivardi of the Trotskyist Worker's Party, Arlette Laguiller of the Trotskyist Workers' Struggle and the Green Party's Dominique Voynet.

Possibles are Olivier Besancenot of the Communist Revolutionary League (LCR), the anti-capitalist campaigner Jose Bove, Frederic Nihous of the hunters' party and maverick Gaullist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan.

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 first round success.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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