Paris (AFP) – France on Sunday voted in the first round of a presidential election with Emmanuel Macron seeking a new term in the face of a challenge from the far right.
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Twelve candidates are in the race, which will see the top two in the first round face a run-off on April 24.
AFP looks at all the hopefuls, from the frontrunner Macron to an eccentric former shepherd from the Pyrenees mountains.
Marine Le Pen
The veteran far-right leader is making her third attempt for the presidency after reaching the second round in 2017, with her political future widely seen as on the line in this year’s polls.
Marine Le Pen is making her third run for the presidency EMMANUEL DUNAND AFP
Rather than holding flashy rallies, the 53-year-old has opted for low-key grassroots campaigning while seeking to cast herself as more mainstream, moderate and competent than her far-right rivals — and even her former self.
The ex-journalist, television pundit and best-selling author has a major national following thanks to his anti-Islam and anti-immigration views, which has enabled him to draw support away from Le Pen and the mainstream right.
Eric Zemmour’s surprise candidacy has upended the campaign on the right CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU AFP
As a political newcomer, the 63-year-old enjoyed a surge in the polls last October, but gaffes and his uncompromising style have seen him slip significantly behind Le Pen in the polls.
– Nicolas Dupont-Aignan
The eurosceptic head of the “Rise Up France” party is a pugnacious mayor of a Paris suburb who bubbles up in French public life every five years at presidential election time.
He has promised to crack down on migration and give “a kick in the butt to the lazy, slackers and free riders”, but has been largely drowned out by Le Pen and Zemmour.
The head of the Greater Paris region surprised many by winning the primary for the conservative Republicans party, becoming its first female candidate in a presidential election.
The French presidential candidates, from top, left to right: Nathalie Arthaud, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Anne Hidalgo, Yannick Jadot, Jean Lassalle, Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Valerie Pecresse, Philippe Poutou, Fabien Roussel and Eric Zemmour Joël SAGET, Eric Feferberg AFP
The former budget minister has accused Macron of overspending and being soft on crime, but her campaign has struggled to gain traction and a disastrous first major rally in February dented her credibility.
In power since 2017 when he won the presidency in his first ever election, the 44-year-old pro-European had been enjoying a comfortable poll lead although this slipped as Le Pen gained ground.
Seen as having drifted rightwards during his term, he is promising more tax cuts, benefits reform and a raise in the retirement age if he becomes the first French president to be re-elected in 20 years.
– Anne Hidalgo –
The mayor of Paris took on the task of trying to revive the fortunes of the floundering Socialist Party after it was trounced in the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections.
The soft-spoken 62-year-old has rarely convinced and appeared to be looking for a way out at the end of last year, with polls suggesting she may struggle to score even two percent.
The former Greenpeace campaigner hoped to transform the dazzling success the Greens enjoyed in local elections two years ago, saying the French are ready to embrace an environmental revolution.
But pushing what he calls pragmatic policies to combat climate change instead of the more radical solutions sought by some in his party, he has failed to put the environment at the centre of the campaign.
A political veteran famous for his tirades against globalisation and the “elites”, the former Trotskyist is polling the strongest among the left-wing candidates and the only one with even a remote chance of making the second round.
A forceful speaker and debater, he is gaining momentum, holding rallies across the country and even appearing simultaneously across France as a hologram.
The charismatic leader of France’s Communist Party has seen his single-digit poll numbers hold firm, though his party remains a shadow of its post-war glory days.
Roussel has promised to increase taxes on companies and the highest earners as well as nationalise big banks and energy giants.
The self-styled voice of the workers and scourge of professional politicians, the former Ford factory worker insulted fellow candidates during a TV debate in 2017 and refused to take part in a joint photo.
He is standing for the New Anti-Capitalist Party with a campaign promising to disarm the police and rebuild France’s public administration.
A low-key and bookish former teacher who is standing for the Workers’ Struggle party in her third tilt at the presidency.
The Trotskyist is promising a huge hike in the minimum wage, a ban on job cuts and retirement at 60, but like all the other fringe candidates made little impact on the campaign.
The eccentric MP from the Pyrenees mountains in the southwest is a former shepherd known for his strong regional accent and passionate defence of rural communities.
Viewed affectionately by many French people, he stands almost no chance in the presidential vote but will probably retain his seat in parliament if he stands in elections in June.
© 2022 AFP