Disillusioned French voters don’t give a Saucisse
A STRIPTEASE artist and a small dog named Sausage are among the 40-odd French presidential candidates who will be eliminated from the race for the Elysée Palace at midnight, the official deadline by which contenders must have submitted signatures of support from 500 mayors.
To qualify to take part in the presidential ballot under French electoral rules established by President Charles de Gaulle in 1964, a candidate must be able to present signatures of support from 500 mayors from at least 30 different departments.
Out of 50 hopefuls, only a dozen are expected to make it through to the first round on 21 April.
Among those who have been unable to raise the necessary signatures is the curvy blonde striptease artist Cindy Lee whose Party of Pleasure has been campaigning for "a sexier France".
The silicone-enhanced Ms Lee, 29, failed to seduce the nation with her campaign for a free emergency "love doctor" service to comfort the lonely, seduction lessons for schoolchildren and "the right to pleasure for all".
"I don’t know why I should be considered any less credible than the other candidates just because I like to take my clothes off," she recently told France Soir.
Also likely to go down at the first hurdle is a tiny dog named "Saucisse", French for sausage, who entered the race for the presidency after grabbing over 4 per cent of the vote at municipal elections in Marseille last year.
Saucisse, who survived an earlier career as bait in pitbull fights, owes his political success to the fact that voters are sick of a political system dogged by bickering, according to his owner, Serge Scotto.
This year’s presidential elections has seen an unprecedented number of candidates come forward, a fact which political analysts say reflects a deep-seated disillusionment among voters.
"Sausage is sending a warning to politicians that unless they do better we would rather vote for a dog," Mr Scotto said, adding: "People have had enough of [incumbent Jacques] Chirac and [Prime Minster Lionel] Jospin.They are turning instead to the bizarre and the ridiculous."
And indeed, not all the wacky candidates have been eliminated.
Olivier Besancenot, a 27-seven-year-old marijuana-smoking Trotskyite postman who delivers letters to the residents of one of Paris’s poshest suburbs has qualified for the first round by advocating a four-day working week and championing the legalisation of cannabis.
He joins fellow Trotskyite and veteran campaigner Arlette Laguiller, who has been notching up to 10 per cent in the opinion polls.
In addition to the leading candidates, Lionel Jospin, the prime minister and Jacques Chirac, the incumbent, those who have also qualified for the first round are: Franois Bayrou (UDF, 984); Robert Hue (PCF, 850), Jean Saint-Josse (Chasse, pche, nature et traditions; 750), Jean-Pierre Chevnement (Ple rpublicain, 682); Alain Madelin (Dmocratie librale, 595); Nol Mamre (Verts, 525) and Daniel Gluckstein (Parti des travailleurs, 515).
However, the controversial but influential far-Right leader of the anti-immigrant National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, reported that he was still lacking 16 signatures.
He has accused President Chirac of bullying local officials into refusing him sponsorship and he has threatened his arch-rival with "political death" if he finds that he is not able to stand for the presidency.
"If I don’t get the signatures, Chirac will be politically dead. It will be an electoral apocalypse for the right," he told Le Figaro.
Mr Le Pen said he would instruct his supporters, who represent some 10 per cent of the electorate, to vote against the Gaullist Mr Chirac in the final round of the election on 5 May, where the head of state is expected to face Mr Jospin in a close run-off.
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