translated by: Hélène Legay
2012. May 20. 11:28
Because it makes possible blackmail and political pressures, and by potentially preventing the representation of certain formations such as the National Front party of extreme French right that weighs between 15 and 20% in the polls, the current sponsorship system is an obstacle to democracy.
For some, the first step towards the presidential elections is a bitter quest. The system of sponsorship was established in 1962, at the same time as the presidential election by universal suffrage was adopted, in order to control the number of candidates and reject any applications deemed insufficiently serious. The sponsorships are given by mayors, MPs and regional councilors and must come from 30 different departments. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, candidate of the Left Front, was the first in line, followed by Philippe Poutou from the New Anti-Capitalist Party, and environmentalist Eva Joly. Last week, Nathalie Arthaud from Control Workers and Independent Jacques Cheminades filled their sponsorships as well as Marine Le Pen and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan. Unsurprisingly, the major parties PS, UMP and MODEM collected the precious signatures without difficulty. Currently, the candidates are accorded strictly equal speaking time in the media.
*A System that Favors the Major Parties
The problem is that the names of the sponsors are made public. It is thus easy for the major parties to make sure that their representatives don’t accord any sponsorships. These same representatives also fear that their sponsorship for a particular candidate can result in a sanction from their voters. Furthermore, they can be denied funding as a part of political blackmail. These 500 signatures are an important issue of the campaign: for Nicolas Sarkozy, the absence of Marine Le Pen in the first round would cause an influx of votes from the extreme right to the right, which might weigh heavily in his balance.
*A Violation of the Democracy
Because of such a system, candidates who are able to obtain several million votes in the elections can end up being unable to present themselves for the elections in the absence of sufficient sponsorship. That's what almost happened to Marine Le Pen. This system can thus be paradoxical in that by wanting to limit the number of candidates, it prevents a potentially significant number of votes to be represented, while allowing candidates less known and less popular, but perhaps more politically correct or harmless in electoral terms, to take part in the elections. However, a simple measure originating from the republican principle of the secret ballot could solve this problem. By establishing anonymity, sponsors wouldn’t have to fear the consequences of supporting political parties such as the FN.
*A Campaign Issue?
March 6th 2012 on France 2, Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a citizen-based sponsorship rather than the current model, as is the case in Lithuania, Portugal and Poland. If we look at the data from May 6th 2007, each candidate would have had to collect 1 300 000 signatures, something that would completely change the French electoral landscape. Nonetheless, even though the different political parties all acknowledge the limits of the system, they aren’t able to agree on a reform.