Five Presidential Hopefuls On Verge Of Official French Race

Obtaining 500 parrainages -- sponsorship pledges from election officials across the country -- are a necessary if not sufficient condition for being officially deemed a candidate in the French presidential election to be held in two rounds on April 23 and May 7.

Four new aspiring candidates have hit the 500 minimum since Friday’s last update. The independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, who leads the race in some polls, has 1,074 and Socialist nominee Benoît Hamon has 1,039. Two hitherto minnows in French presidential politics join them: on the right, the sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (559) and on the far-left Lutte Ouvrière’s Nathalie Arthaud (557). The former scored 1.79 percent of the vote in the first round in 2012 and the latter 0.56 percent.

The embattled conservative candidate François Fillon was the first to reach the 500 mark in figures released last week and has now had 1,789 parrainages validated by the Council. Fillon is due to face a formal investigation next week in the fake-jobs scandal that has dominated his campaign, but he has made a show of maintaining his candidacy despite appeals for him to step aside amid floundering poll numbers.

Some 40,000 elected officials across the country are eligible to make the sponsorship pledges in favour of a candidate, mailing their highly sought-after parrainages to France’s Constitutional Council. A candidate must collect 500 such golden tickets before the deadline of March 17, but merely reaching that number of pledges does not guarantee an official place in the race. The pledges must represent at least 30 French administrative departments, with no single department representing more than 10 percent of the total. The candidates have obligations of their own, including submitting a declaration of their assets and confirmation in writing that they wish to stand in the election.

Indeed, in Tuesday’s updated release of validated parrainages, former Fillon rival Alain Juppé has 242, up from a single pledge last Friday, illustrating the wave of support in favour of Juppé throwing his hat in to replace Fillon last week. Juppé, the mayor of Bordeaux and a former prime minister, on Monday ruled out stepping into the race and Fillon’s Les Républicains party leadership unanimously renewed its support for their nominee, who beat Juppé in a conservative primary last November. François Baroin, the conservative mayor of Troyes who was momentarily rumoured to be a Plan C to replace Fillon after Juppé declined the role, has five parrainages on the latest count.

With ten days to go before the deadline, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is closest to reaching the goal, possibly as soon as the next updated list expected on Friday, with 483 parrainages. Far-leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, meanwhile, has 356 registered under his name.

The Council’s latest list names 37 men and women with at least one validated parrainage. The largely unheralded hopeful closest to the 500 mark is François Asselineau, a 59-year-old career public servant who stumps for leaving the European Union. He has already collected 480.

Ten hopefuls were officially invested as candidates in 2012, 12 in 2010 and 16 in the particularly prolific 2002 roster of presidential choices. (France24)