Marine Le Pen, of France’s far-right, may miss ballot


Marine Le Pen, the French presidential challenger from the far right, could find herself ejected from the election race. 

To stand, candidates need to muster 500 signatures from mayors or other elected officials across France.

Le Pen says she has fewer than 400.

On Thursday, she turned to France’s Constitutional Court seeking a change in the law to ensure mayors who sign up won’t have their endorsements made public.

Her National Front party has captured up to 17 percent in elections over the years from voters protected by the secrecy of the ballot box. But French people are more reluctant to publicly proclaim their support for the far-right group, whose anti-immigration stance has led to frequent accusations of racism.

Read more: Who backs Le Pen?

“Mayors on the ground have told us that if anonymous endorsements are allowed, there’ll be fewer problems, especially for the candidate that I am,” Le Pen told reporters outside the court in Paris.

Marine Le Pen has sought to improve the party’s respectability among mainstream voters since replacing her father Jean-Marie Le Pen as leader last year.

She’s tried to distance herself from some of his inflammatory language, for example the comment that the Nazi occupation of France “was not particularly inhumane,” for which he was handed a three-month suspended jail sentence Thursday.

Instead the younger Le Pen is campaigning on trade barriers to protect French industry and farmers, tough anti-crime measures and a roll-back of European Union powers. Polls give her up to 20 percent of the vote, and experts say the real rating could be higher, since voters may be reluctant to reveal their support to pollsters.

Read more: Le Pen courts Jewish voters

The court is due to rule on her bid for secret signatures next week. Le Pen has until March 16 to collect the endorsements.

Critics accuse her of deliberately keeping the issue alive to draw attention and sympathy to her campaign ahead of the April 22 election.

However, even some of her opponents are worried that barring her from the race would sent the wrong signal. Centrist candidate Francois Beyrou suggested that other parties instruct their officials to give Le Pen the required endorsements for the sake of democracy.

Le Pen’s farther was excluded from the presidential election in 1981 for failing to get the required signatures. But by 2002 he’d bounced back, stunning the political establishment by taking second place before losing in a run-off against Jacques Chirac.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who formally announced his candidacy on Wednesday, must be hoping that he does not fall victim to a similar surprise Le Pen surge. A poll published Wednesday on the website of VSD magazine gave the incumbent 24 percent, behind Socialist contender Francois Hollande on 28 percent.

Both Sarkozy and Holland have rejected the appeal to help Le Pen gather her signatures.


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