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9 March 2012

Will Le Pen miss the ballot?

Sarkozy courts the far-right vote as Le Pen struggles to qualify for the election.

By George Eaton

With just a week to go until the deadline, Marine Le Pen is still at least “30 short” of the 500 signatures she needs from local mayors to get onto the ballot for the French presidential election. Her legal bid to allow secret signatures failed last month and elected officials from the mainstream parties are, unsurprisingly, under orders not to approve her candidacy.

Should the National Front candidate fail to get the requisite signatures, it would dramatically change the state of the race. The 17.5 per cent of French voters who support Le Pen would likely transfer their support to Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been shamelessly courting the far-right vote with his demagogic attacks on halal meat and immigration. This would almost certainly hand Sarkozy victory in the first-round. In the last month, he has narrowed François Hollande’s lead from six points to just three.

However, barring a dramatic upset, Hollande is still on track to become France’s first Socialist President since 1995. The polls continue to show him around 12 points ahead of Sarkozy in the second round. Not even the latter’s desperate attempt to dramatise the election by vowing to quit politics if defeated is likely to change this.

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