The true campaign season has not yet started in France and there are already a large number of candidates, a total of 15. The current president Nicolas Sarkozy has not yet officially declared himself a candidate, saying he would continue to do his work as president until the end of his term, although many expect him to do so very soon after newspaper Liberation revealed that he had already chosen his campaign headquarters. Francois Hollande was designated the socialist party(PS) candidate through an American style system of primaries, something the UMP has ruled out, beating out favourite Martine Aubry and his ex-wife Segolène royal. Having already been candidate for months now but failing to present a true programme for the election and often flip-flopping between statements and promises. The PS which tries to show itself to the public as a unified party, despite former prolific candidates Aubry and royal disappearing from the public eye, has recently started calling for the ump to present its official candidate in the expected form of Sarkozy, saying that once the two main parties have a candidate the true debate can begin.
So far the debate has consisted of UMP ministers, especially in the form of Nadine Morano, bashing Hollande for not having a programme and criticising his criticisms of Sarkozy's politics and of the coups bas or below the belt blows. Hollande, in a supposedly off-the-record dinner with leading political journalists, was revealed by the newspaper Le Parisien to have called Sarkozy a "sale mec", a scheming pig. The UMP has called for the debate to return to the facts, a thing which becomes difficult when the opposing candidate doesn't have a programme.
On the right already there are already many candidates which have broken off from the UMP. Christine bouton, a disgruntled former Sarkozy minister, declared herself candidate but is having difficulties getting the 500 necessary signatures. Dominique de Villepin, Jacques Chirac's former prime minister and public Sarkozy enemy after the Clearstream affair, also declared himself candidate, running under the banner of his Républicque Solidaire party is seen as only another way that he has found to undermine Sarkozy's candidacy. The centre-right party also has two candidates, Hervé Morin, in the polls with just about 1% of the vote and his former friend, now enemy, François Bayrou who is running in his third presidential election, never having made it to the 2nd round of voting but is third or fourth in the polls, depending on the week.
There is also the extreme right candidate Marine Le Pen who is so far the only candidate to have presented her program. Despite being one of the most polarising parties a survey found that 30% of the French people wouldn't exclude voting for the Front National in the first election round.
Already one can see that the variety of independent candidates will make it difficult for the established parties to gain a definite majority. With no obvious second round candidates it is very possible that François Bayrou or Marine Le Pen make it to the second round, in a 1995 repeat where Le Pen's father Jean-Marie beat out Socialist Lionel Jospin before losing to Jacques Chirac, excluding current frontrunners Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande from becoming the next French president.
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