The head of France's far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, is from today an official candidate for the French presidency, having secured the necessary endorsements.
French law requires presidential hopefuls to collect at least 500 signatures from mayors or other elected officials in order to be able to stand. Le Pen confirmed that she was still around 15 short of that number on Sunday, according to Agence France Presse.
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She has since succeeded in securing them all, however, and will officially announce her candidacy later this afternoon, she said on Twitter this morning.
"I will be running in the presidential election," Le Pen tweeted. "The system that wanted to stop me just lost a battle."
Le Pen had accused France's larger political parties, the ruling center-right UMP and left-wing Socialists, of trying to use their influence to exclude her from the ballot. Last month she launched an unsuccessful legal bid to allow officials to make their endorsements confidentially, arguing that they feared political backlash if they came out publicly to support the National Front.
Le Pen's candidacy is "very good news for democracy," the head of her campaign, Florian Philippot, told RTL radio this morning. "It was extraordinary to think that a candidate who represented almost 20 percent of votes in the first round wouldn't be in the running."
The party's opponents, however, accuse the National Front of playing the victim. Its previous leader and Marine's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, managed to collect the 500 signatures for every presidential election since 1988, AFP pointed out.
The latest opinion poll, published yesterday, gave Marine Le Pen 16 percent of votes in the first round, Reuters reported. President Nicolas Sarkozy, representing the UMP, had 28.5 percent compared to 27 percent for Socialist candidate François Hollande, the first time yet that the incumbent has polled ahead of his challenger.
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