Hello, it’s lunchtime in Paris, and the main presidential candidates present their programs to the French main employers’ organization, le Medef. Environmentalist Yannick Jadot, leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Communist Fabien Roussel, Conservative Valérie Pécresse, Socialist Anne Hidalgo, far-right candidates Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour have all been invited.
What happened during the weekend? While most of the candidates were on the campaign trail, outgoing president and likely candidate Emmanuel Macron spent his time multiplying diplomatic contacts to avoid a military escalation in Ukraine. He tried to organize a summit between the American and Russian presidents without having the guarantee that such a meeting could be held.
Why does it matter? This situation reinforces the contrast between a president in office and the candidates. Emmanuel Macron has until March 4 to officially register his candidacy. He already has the necessary number of sponsorships needed to appear on the ballot.
Candidates who don’t have the 500 signatures yet, have twelve days left to check the box. On March 4 the final list of presidential candidates will be published.
Four of them are already making headlines: leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise), center-left Christiane Taubira, and far-right candidates Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen. All are complaining about a procedure they consider anti-democratic and energy-consuming.
They can’t be surprised. For more than forty years, it has been well known that a candidate must obtain the sponsorship of five hundred elected officials. There is a total of 42,433 of them in France, mostly mayors. They can only give their support to one candidate per election cycle.
Since 2016, the names of all sponsors are made public before the vote. Some are thus reluctant to support a candidate, even though giving their signature does not officially count as political support. The accounting of these sponsorships is ensured by the Constitutional Council, which publishes the new names of the sponsors and the beneficiary candidates twice a week.
Previous French presidential elections have shown that politicians who advocate radical positions struggle to reach this figure of 500. This year, the abundance of candidates at both ends of the political spectrum adds obstacles.
Five years ago, Jean-Luc Mélenchon could rely on what remained of the network of local communist elected officials. Now they back their candidate, Fabien Roussel, who reached the 500 threshold last week, leaving Jean-Luc Mélenchon to his doubts (370). Christiane Taubira was able to run in 2002 thanks to the baking of a small party, Le Parti Radical de Gauche (PRG, which is not radical but rather center-left). This time, the PRG abandoned her and she is far from reaching the goal (86).
In 2017, Marine Le Pen was already the main candidate of the far-right and despite her warning calls at the time, she was able to collect 627 signatures. This year, she faces the rivalry of Eric Zemmour with the risk that neither of them gets the necessary number. Marginal candidates are in the same boat: Trotskyist Philippe Poutou (Nouveau Party Anticapitaliste) is weakened by the dissent of Anasse Kazib with a dim prospect of success.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon (370 sponsors), Marine Le Pen (366), and Eric Zemmour (291) are three of the five highest-ranking candidates in the polls. They warn of a potential denial of democracy if they don’t obtain the necessary signatures. Asked if the election would be illegitimate in the case neither Marine Le Pen nor Jean-Luc Mélenchon nor himself would appear on the ballot, Eric Zemmour said yes.
On Sunday, the Conservative mayor of Cannes (south) announced he would give his sponsorship to leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon for the sake of plurality. François Bayrou, a former Justice minister and a key ally of Emmanuel Macron, said last week that he had gathered about one hundred sponsors to rescue struggling candidates.
The greatest attention will be paid on Tuesday and Thursday when the additional signatures will be published. The environmentalist candidate Yannick Jadot should cross the threshold, after Conservative Valérie Pécresse, Socialist Anne Hidalgo, undeclared candidate Emmanuel Macron, indépendant Jean Lassalle and Trotskyist Nathalie Arthaud. All eyes will be on the four latecomers.
Quote of the day
“It’s either Macron or me”
Far-right candidate Eric Zemmour (Reconquête!) presented himself as the main opponent of the outgoing president Emmanuel Macron on Saturday. “It is not Emmanuel Macron who has chosen me as his opponent, it is France who has chosen me as Emmanuel Macron’s opponent. We embody the two simplest and clearest visions for France’s future. It’s either Macron or me,” he said. Eric Zemmour is statically tied with the other far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and with Conservative Valérie Pécresse. He has not yet the necessary number of sponsors to appear on the ballot.
48 Days until the presidential election’s first round
62 Days until the presidential election’s second round
Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow