French politics

A question of “parrainages”

Marine Le Pen, FN candidate for the French presidential election

Marine Le Pen did not win her case. Indeed, the FN leader and candidate for the French presidency was dismissed by the French Constitutional Court where she demanded the “parrainages” (supports) anonymity of mayors for the candidates. As justification, it was considered the current system – the publicity of the supports – was perfectly in conformity with the Constitution of the Fifth Republic and it was impossible to change the rules just sixty days before the election anyway.

Will Marine Le Pen obtain her 500 supports? This is the question currently asked by some political analysts and scholars and by the FN president herself. According to her, she got near 420 supports so far and still is denouncing a so-called system which is looking for preventing her to stand for the election.

The “parrainages” issue is still a very burning issue, coming back at any presidential election. 500 mayors or local representatives’ signatures are required to run. The system was designed and implemented by General de Gaulle in 1962 to avoid any scatterbrained candidacy.

Since then, the process little evolved excepted in 1976 where the minimum threshold to get the signatures went from 100 to 500 and made the things more complicated for some candidates. In 1981 for example, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former FN president and Marine’s father, didn’t be able to run as Charles Pasqua – the Nicolas Sarkozy’s mentor – in 2002, because of insufficient supports. And at any presidential election, some candidates experience the same situation.

As controversial it may be, the “parrainages” system asks the following issue: the democratic legitimacy of a process in which French people are supposed to elect the president of the Republic on the most possible universal way. Such a principle should guarantee that all the political circles of influence are represented. However, the system eventually favoured the French traditional political parties thanks to a very import network of local representatives which is not the case for the Front national although Marine Le Pen underestimated the situation because of goods opinions polls.

The French Constitutional Court’s decision to maintain the publicity of the mayors supports is not surprising, on the behalf of a democratic transparency. Indeed, anonymity would not have been a democratic progress and a good idea insofar as nothing would have been resolved after all. Nonetheless, the “parrainages” debate gave the opportunity to think about the process and to propose some alternative solutions to make the system better.

In spite of all, a solution will have to be found especially when it is known that Marine Le Pen is backed by 15% of the French people according the opinion polls and it is not the interest of any candidate that the far right candidate can’t run and submit her candidacy to French voters, because of insufficient supports.