Until recently, the presidential campaign in France could have looked very different. Due to campaign procedures that require official sponsorships, several presidential hopefuls may have been excluded from proceeding as formal candidates. But the suspense ended on Tuesday, March 1st, with the publication by the Constitutional Council of the last registered sponsorships. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Marine Le Pen, Éric Zemmour, and the small sovereignist candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan managed to pass the fateful 500 signature mark and thus confirm their candidacy.
Never before has the collection of signatures generated such tension: the deadline for the deposit of sponsorships was set for March 4th, so validation really came at the last minute for major candidates who were nevertheless guaranteed to gather at least 10% of the vote.
The intervention of the president of the centrist party Modem (Mouvement Démocrate), François Bayrou, played an important role in unblocking the situation. He proposed and set up a kind of sponsorship bank which collected 365 sponsorships, which were then made available to the candidates in default. However, Éric Zemmour claims to have acquired his sponsorships on his own and refutes any role played by François Bayrou’s initiative in the confirmation of his candidacy—a way for him to emphasise his independence from the system.
While François Bayrou’s initiative has obviously had a positive effect on the collection of sponsorships, it has above all highlighted the institutional blockage represented by the sponsorship system in its current form. A common bank of sponsorships goes against the initial intuition of the process in the constitution of the Fifth Republic: the individual commitment of elected representatives to affirm the credibility of this or that candidate to claim to be elected President of the Republic.
Some candidates from the Left and the far Left, however, are still in trouble and may well be denied the opportunity to participate in the election. The Guyanese candidate Christiane Taubira, despite winning a popular primary organised by various left-wing groups in January, has still not passed the 200 signature mark. She thus decided to leave the race. The Trotskyite-inspired candidate Philippe Poutou, who represents the New Anti-Capitalist Party, has collected 439 signatures. He only has a few hours left to convince reluctant sponsors.