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Sponsorship of Candidates for the Presidential Election

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The French Presidential campaign officially began Friday 16th of March. This marked the dead-line for handing in the required 500 signatures to the Constitutional Council in order to participate in May’s election. However, the terms of this formality is under debate.
Source: Flickr

Sponsorship of Candidates for the Presidential Elections: more of democracy needed

Hélène Legay | 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.

Sponsorship of Candidates for the Presidential Elections: a Good System

Constance Marécheau | translated by: Constance Marécheau | 2012. May 20. 11:38

The controversy over sponsorship of the French presidential candidates erupted last November when the FN candidate filed a request for anonymity of the signatures presented to the Constitutional Council. Despite criticism, the system is legitimate - it regulates the number of candidates and ensures transparency.

Sponsorship of candidates for the presidential election was first introduced in 1965; when the first election by universal suffrage of the French president took place. At the time, each candidate had to obtain the sponsorship (which manifests itself in a signature) of at least one hundred mayors in order to be allowed to present themselves for the first round of the election. This system was reformed in 1976; since then, 500 signatures are required, in addition, their anonymity is lifted. It is this system that Marine Le Pen, the FN candidate, challenges by a Priority Question of Constitutionality that was submitted to the State Council in November. The initiative is supported by Corine Lepage, Green candidate and Christine Boutin from the Christian Democratic Party. The complaint is based on the modification of the French Constitution of 2008 which states that "the law guarantees pluralistic expressions of opinions." They consider that some parties, especially the FN, are stigmatized which hinders mayors from giving them their signature even if they should wish to do so. The plurality of the election is thus not respected as they may be unable to present a candidate. The State Council referred the matter to the Constitutional Council. They judged that the system is not unconstitutional, dismissing the plaintiffs on the 21st of February 2012. The controversy resurfaced on Friday, March 16th, the deadline for deposing the mandatory 500 signatures of the candidates. Some minor candidates failed to meet the requirements. The calling into question of the sponsorship system is not new, however, during the elections, it takes on a different dimension.

*Instrumentalization of the Debate

The question of the constitutionality of the sponsorship system was raised precisely during the presidential campaign which had the effect of drawing attention to the political figures that launched the debate, particularly Marine Le Pen. It is legitimate to ask whether this sudden interest in the constitutional reform of 2008 is not guided by electoral calculations. In fact, it is quite common for the smaller parties to take to this debate, saying that they did not reach the minimum number of signatures required and exposing the hegemony of the major parties such as the UMP and the PS. In this manner they increase their sympathy among the electorate. Much noise was made about the FN’s quest for signatures, often presented as a victim of stigma. Nonetheless, all political parties use the sponsorship system in order to increase their media-coverage, demonstrated by the staging of the deposition of the signatures last Friday: representatives of almost every party marched to the Constitutional Council, handing in their sponsorships on the very last day, in order to keep up the suspense.

*An Essential System

Despite the drawbacks of the sponsorship system, it is an essential part of the proper functioning of a democracy. Certainly, small parties do not always get the number of signatures required, but it is necessary in order to regulate the number of candidates in the first round. The first round of the presidential election is in fact often exploited by candidates who want to promote themselves rather than compete for presidency. Furthermore, it is perfectly democratic that mayors have the right to choose to whom they wish to give their patronage or not and that the information is passed on to their constituents. Mayors must publicly assume their responsibility. The debate that has developed around the sponsorship system currently in force is not groundless; the question of its legitimacy must be asked, however, it was too obviously manipulated through the campaign by certain parties who portray themselves as victims. This system is democratic and necessary for the proper conduct of the presidential election.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

The state of votes

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Sponsorship of Candidates for the Presidential Elections: more of democracy needed

Hélène Legay|translated by: Hélène Legay

Sponsorship of Candidates for the Presidential Elections: a Good System

Constance Marécheau| translated by: Constance Marécheau

2 Comments

McLover Kabwe M.C
2016. 05. 05. 13:36
Secret behind power and domination...
McLover Kabwe M.C
2016. 05. 05. 13:32
I am willing to participate in the presidential election in my country DRC. I have a master of science in Economics and was very brilliant in politics at the University of namibia where I served as the deputy Speaker of the Student Union. I live in diaspora, and i am very encouraged by many congolese to participate in the election as someone who has much to provide to the congolese nation. Your sponsorship to me will be much appreciated. My movement is called.... Congolese Democrats. The CODE. my email is mapcammy@yahoo.co.uk

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