The French Constitutional Court has approved 10 candidates to run for the presidency in elections starting on April 22. But only two, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Francois Hollande, are genuine contenders.
Ten candidates have been confirmed for the French presidential elections starting next month, having secured the requisite 500 signatures from elected mayors and regional councilors. Jean-Louis Debry, president of the constitutional court in Paris, announced on Monday that the 10 hopefuls were cleared to run for the country's highest political office.
The first round of voting will take place on April 22.
Incumbent conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and his center-left opponent, Socialist party candidate Francois Hollande, are the clear front-runners expected to duke it out in a runoff vote in May.
Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen is running third in the polls, and is currently expected to win around 20 percent of the vote in the first round.
Centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, the leader of the MoDem ("Mouvement Democratique" or "Democratic Movement") party, is the only contender seeking the post for a third time. His best result to date came during his last bid in 2007, when he finished third with more than 18 percent of the first-round vote.
From the fringes
Jean-Luc Melenchon is the Left Front candidate, Eva Joly will represent the Europe Environment ecologist party, and Nathalie Arthaud is on the ballot on behalf of the Workers' Force trade union.
Communist candidate Philippe Poutou of the New Anticapitalist Party will also appear on the ballot, along with centrist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan - who failed to win the required 500 signatures in his 2007 bid for the presidency.
Jacques Cheminade is again running as an independent candidate, after five previous attempts. The 71-year-old - who first sought the presidency in 1981 - had only previously qualified for the election once, in 1995, when he secured 0.28 percent of the vote.
Former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's bid to be on the 2012 ballot was thwarted as he could not amass the required signatories.
The first-round vote on April 22 is most likely to lead to a two-candidate second round runoff vote on May 6. Polls currently suggest that Sarkozy and Hollande are running virtually neck-and-neck, with Le Pen trailing in third.
The election will be closely watched to the east in Germany, considering that Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged her support to Sarkozy, while the opposition Social Democrats have put themselves cleary in Hollande's camp in recent weeks.
msh/acb (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)