Candidates in the French presidential election are on their last day of campaigning before voters head to the polls on Sunday. No campaigning is allowed the day before the election. Front-runner Francois Hollande has already held a final rally in Bordeaux, while President Nicolas Sarkozy will hold his last campaign event in Nice. Polls show the two men neck-and-neck, but Socialist candidate Mr Hollande is expected to win a run-off vote. The far-right candidate Marine le Pen could take around 17% of the vote, while left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon has come from behind to see poll ratings at 14-15%. Centrist Francois Bayrou is likely to come in fifth place.
Ten candidates — that’s the field of presidential hopefuls competing for votes in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday, April 22. Some of them are household names, like incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy and his main challenger, the socialist Francois Hollande. Others are still relatively unknown, even to French voters, such as the candidate representing the Trotskyist party, Lutte Ouvrière, or the head of the LaRouche movement in France (both currently polling at 0 percent). The multitude of candidates stems in part from a two-round electoral system, whereby everyone competes in the first round but only the two candidates with the highest number of votes face off in the second round (on May 6). What also enables so many candidates to run is that French electoral campaigns are cheap. As long as you can gather 500 signatures of support from about 47,000 elected representatives throughout France, you can stand for election to the presidency. Money is a good thing to have in a French electoral campaign, to be sure, but there is not that much money can buy: a good Web team; campaign posters; computers; t-shirts and gadgets; airfares; tolls and fuel for the cars of the party operatives who criss-cross the country; and the organization of campaign rallies — some small, some massive — such as Sarkozy’s recent meeting on the Place de la Concorde and Hollande’s big rally in Vincennes. That’s about it. By law, campaign expenses are subjected to a maximum ceiling, and spending in excess of that is illegal. The state also subsidizes candidates. It gives about eight million euros, half of the maximum amount of expenses allowed in the first round, to those who obtain more than 5% of the votes in the first round and about 800,000 euros to those who do not make the 5% cut. In 2007, Sarkozy spent 21 million euros to win the presidential contest, while his main opponent, the socialist Ségolène Royal, spent 20 million euros. French politicians are, therefore, not enslaved to special interests or Super-PACs as they are in the U.S. Televised political ads are banned — only a small number of “statements” by each candidate, following strict rules on time and editing, can be broadcast on television and only during the five-week period of the “official” campaign as defined by law.