Sarkozy rescues his far-right rival Le Pen

6th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 6, 2007 (AFP) - France's right-wing presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has come to the rescue of his far-right rival Jean-Marie Le Pen, who risks being eliminated from next month's elections without urgently-needed political sponsorships.

PARIS, March 6, 2007 (AFP) - France's right-wing presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has come to the rescue of his far-right rival Jean-Marie Le Pen, who risks being eliminated from next month's elections without urgently-needed political sponsorships.

Ten days ahead of the deadline by which would-be candidates must have collected 500 signatures of mayors and other elected officials, Le Pen says he is still around 100 names short and faces the threat of being declared ineligible for the race.

But speaking on France 3 television Monday evening, Sarkozy -- favourite in the polls to win the election -- said that it would be undemocratic if Le Pen, as well as far-left candidate Olivier Besancenot, who is also facing sponsorship difficulties, are unable to run.

"Personally, I fight against the ideas of Monsieur Le Pen, but I will also fight for the right of Monsieur Besancenot as well as Le Pen to defend their ideas," he said.

At the same time Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party called on mayors and officials who are not members of political parties to give Le Pen the signatures he needs.

"Two thirds of elected representatives are not members of political organisations. To them we address this message: we are at an important democratic moment and we believe the main ideological trends in our country should be represented," UMP spokesman Luc Chatel said.

Three UMP representatives have now come forward to sponsor Le Pen, including Normandy local councillor Andre Danet who said that it would be "anti-democratic and contrary to the spririt of our institutions" if Le Pen were ineligible.

Le Pen, 78, is accredited by opinion polls with between 12 and 14 percent of the first round vote, in fourth place behind Sarkozy, the socialist Segolene Royal, and the centrist Francois Bayrou.

In the 2002 election, he came in second place with more than 16 percent of the vote -- qualifying for the two-way second round in which he was easily beaten by Jacques Chirac.

The far-right candidate on Tuesday acknowledged the UMP's appeal for sponsorships, but he said he was "perfectly aware that the real reason behind it is (Sarkozy's) knowing electoral calculations."

Some election analysts believe that Sarkozy stands to suffer most if Le Pen is unable to stand.

According to one argument, disappointed Le Pen supporters will cast their vote "against the system" and shun Sarkozy. Others say the UMP candidate would be forced to shift his position to the right in order to attract the Le Pen vote, thus exposing his flank to the centrist Bayrou.

Under rules designed to weed out frivolous candidacies, challengers for the 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. The deadline is March 16.

On Monday police confirmed that a hacker had tapped into Le Pen's campaign computer and stolen files containing lists of mayors who have promised to back him. Le Pen alleged last week that several potential sponsors have retracted after coming under pressure from anonymous telephone callers.

Le Pen, who founded the far-right National Front in 1972, has been a candidate in every election since 1974 -- except in 1981 when he failed to get the 500 signatures.

The elections take place on Sundays April 22 and May 6.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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