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France’s 2017 presidential race is underway. The first round of the election will take place on April 23, followed by a run-off poll on May 7. French President François Hollande is not seeking a second term, making what has been a chaotic political contest even harder to predict. The country’s Constitutional Council has approved 11 official candidates. Find out who they are and where they stand by clicking on their pictures below.





Texts: Romain Brunet and Latifa Mouaoued Translation: Joseph Bamat
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François Fillon

Les Républicains


Age: 63
Party: Les Républicains, formerly UMP, France’s mainstream conservative party

Former prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012) and Paris MP

Mister clean. During the conservative primary Fillon portrayed himself as the candidate free from legal woes, as opposed to in-party rivals Sarkozy and Alain Juppé, only to be later embroiled in a “fake jobs” scandal with his Welsh-born wife and two of their children.

Unruly teen. Known as a rebellious youth, he once cut school to join the May 1968 protests that were raging across the country. Detained by police, he was escorted back to his school while intoning a communist anthem.

Good Christian. "I will never go to extremes because I am a Christian,” he once declared on television, once again brandishing his Christian faith as proof he would be a moderate and humanist president.


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Marine Le Pen

National Front


Age: 48
Party: The National Front, far-right party founded by Le Pen’s father
Slogan: "In the name of the people"

Member of the European Parliament since 2004
Finished third in the 2012 presidential race, securing 17.9% of votes in the first round

All woman. Le Pen has not hesitated to play the gender card in the campaign. She will be “one of the only women candidates for highest office”, she boasted.

Rounding the rough edges. Since taking over the party in 2011, she has laboured to make the National Front more palatable to mainstream voters, avoiding the incendiary statements that made her father infamous.

Immigrants second. As was true with her father, battling immigration remains at the core of her campaign. She wants to drastically reduce the number of legal immigrants, and inscribe a so-called “French first” clause in the constitution.

Symbolically secularist. She wants to ban all religious symbols from the public space and says fighting Islamic fundamentalism is her first priority.


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Benoît Hamon

Socialist Party


Age: 49
Party: Socialist Party, ruling party of François Hollande
Slogan: "Make France’s heart beat"
Former education minister under Hollande and a French MP representing the Yvelines department

Rebel with a cause. Promoted from a junior minister position to education minister in 2012, Hamon nevertheless walked out on Hollande’s cabinet in protest of the government’s pro-business turn.

Political upset. Considered an outsider candidate in the left-wing primary, he easily beat favourite Manuel Valls, unexpectedly earning the Socialist Party’s presidential nomination.

Money for nothing. His emblematic campaign pledge, to gradually give everyone a universal income regardless of employment status or wealth, managed to put him at the heart of political debate.

Socialists united? He managed to rally France’s Green Party behind his campaign, but has since struggled to secure top endorsements from his own Socialist Party, notably from former PM Manuel Valls and his entourage.


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Jean-Luc Mélenchon

La France insoumise


Age: 65
Party: La France insoumise, or Indomitable France, a coalition that includes France’s Communist Party
Slogan: "The strength of the people"
Member of the European Parliament since 2009
Finished fourth in the 2012 presidential race, securing 11.1% of votes in the first round

System overhaul. Acknowledging his admiration for the Tunisian revolution of 2011, Mélenchon wants to “drain” the greater part of France’s political class.

"Le Hareng de Bismarck". In a provocatively titled 2015 essay, the Bismarck Herring, he rages against Angela Merkel’s pro-business Germany and makes his case for left-leaning nationalism.

Version 2.0. A gifted orator, he is also a social media-savvy candidate. His YouTube channel boasts hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and a key campaign speech in Paris – with him as a hologram image – grabbed headlines.

Quinoa champ. A late convert to the environmental cause, he says his diet is largely based on quinoa and preaches in favour of sustainable agriculture.


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Emmanuel Macron

En Marche !


Age: 39
Party: “En Marche!”, or On the Move!, founded by Macron in 2016
Former economy minister, has never been elected to public office

President’s protégé. A former investment banker, Macron is not your ordinary candidate. He has never run in an election and lacks an established party. He owes his entrance into politics to President Hollande, who took him under his wing, first as an advisor, then as his economy minister.

Bayrou’s boy. Short on political backing, he is nevertheless the heir of a strong centrist political tradition in France. In a major boost to his candidacy, he was endorsed by centrist heavyweight François Bayrou.

Brain gain. Turning the tables on French fears of “brain drain”, he has called on Brexit-hit businesspeople and Trump-weary scientists to make France their new home.


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Nicolas Dupont-Aignan

Debout la France !


Age: 56
Party: “Debout la France”, or France Arise, fringe nationalist party

French MP representing the Essonne department

Finished seventh in the 2012 presidential race, securing 1.79% of votes in the first round

Great Gaullism. After many years in France’s mainstream conservative party, Dupont-Aignan formally cut ties in 2007 and set up his own political camp, originally named “Debout la République”. He considers himself to be the political heir of WWII hero and conservative French leader Charles de Gaulle.

Anti-EU. He is a constant critic of the “unelected technocrats” of the European Union, who he accuses of stealing French sovereignty.

To be Franc. He wants to keep the euro, but also bring back a parallel national currency.

Tighter immigration. He champions a very strict control of immigration, claiming it "threatens national cohesion".


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Nathalie Arthaud

Workers' Struggle


Age: 47
Party: Workers' Struggle, fringe Trotskyist party
Slogan: “Speaking out for workers”

Finished ninth in the 2012 presidential race, securing 0.56% of votes in the first round

Ordinary people. An Economics high school teacher in the Parisian suburb of Aubervilliers, Arthaud says she has her finger on the pulse of ordinary workers and their interests.

Revolutionary road. Class struggle is a constant theme of her campaign. The spokeswoman of a decentralised, fringe Communist party, she says she is not interested in claiming power, but rather “overthrowing the system” in which working conditions are “worsening”.

As Arlette. One of only two women candidates in the 2017 presidential race, she is also the successor of Arlette Laguillier, the first-ever woman to run for France’s highest office.


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François Asselineau

Popular Republican Union


Age: 59
Party: Popular Republican Union (UPR)

A presidential hopeful in 2012, but failed to secure the 500 signatures from elected officials needed to become a formal candidate

High-ranking official. An alumni of France’s prestigious École nationale d'administration (ENA), Asselineau has worked in several government ministries, and as a chief of staff for the late conservative, and colourful, politician Charles Pasqua.

UMP quitter. Elected to the Paris city council in 2001 as a member of the then UMP party, he eventually quit the mainstream conservative camp in opposition to “its pro-European position” and “alliance with the United States”.

Kremlin lover. Fiercely anti-American, French journalist Nicolas Hénin has called the candidate’s political camp “the most pro-Putin party of France” in reference to the Russian president.


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Philippe Poutou

New Anti-Capitalist Party


Age: 50
Party: New Anti-Capitalist party
Slogan: “Our lives, not their profits.”
Candidate in the 2012 election. Came in eighth, with 1.15 percent of the vote.

Class struggler. He plays on his working-class roots. In the middle of the presidential campaign he picketed to defend the jobs at the Ford factory where he worked.

Share alike. His programme centres on the fight against tax evasion and the sharing of labour and wealth.

Deadline day. He launched a “democracy alert” on January 16 because he was having trouble getting the required number of “parrainages”, or political sponsors. He got them just under the wire on the last day to qualify as a candidate.

Top tweet “#KimKardashian 9 million euros of jewelry in her room? The redistribution of wealth is an emergency.” A polemical tweet, quickly erased.


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Jacques Cheminade

Solidarity and Progress


Age: 75
Party: Solidarity and Progress
This is his third presidential run. In 2012 he came in tenth (last), with 0.25 percent of the vote.

Foreign spy? He was strongly influenced during a trip to New York in 1974 by Lyndon LaRouche, the founder of the US Labor Party who was known for his conspiracy theories. The FBI took an interest in Cheminade because of his relationship with LaRouche and described him in a document as a foreign spy in the service of LaRouche.

Different class. Difficult to place on the political chessboard, he highlights his fight against “financial occupation” which, according to him, is represented by Wall Street, the City of London, Brussels and the IMF.

Sea changer. According to him, the sea is the next frontier for humanity. “It’s there where almost everything remains to be explored, where everything can be rethought and redone.”


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Jean Lassalle

Resist!


Age: 61
Party: Resist!
MP representing the Pyrénées-Atlantiques since 2002

Guiding light. The child of itinerant herdsmen from a little village in the Aspe Valley in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, he likes to present himself as a good shepherd. He used the same imagery as the title of the book outlining his programme, A Shepherd at the Elysée, referring to the home of the French president.

Middle man. A former member of the centrist Union for French Democracy, which became the Democratic Movement (MoDem) in 2007, he is close to MoDem head François Bayrou but, unlike him, voted for Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round of the presidential election in 2012.

Hunger-striker. A longtime fan of the grand gesture, he went on a 39-day hunger strike in 2006 to protest the closing of a factory in the Aspe Valley that employed 150 people. To make his point, he had no problem launching into song, a capella, in the National Assembly.