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sponsorships, a race against time for “small” candidates

Collecting 500 referrals can be mission impossible for “small” candidates. Hélène Thouy, Anasse Kazib and Georges Kuzmanovic confided their difficulties to France 24.

It is 5 p.m., Tuesday, February 8, and the last count of the Constitutional Council has just fallen: 84 sponsorships for Anasse Kazib (Permanent Revolution), 48 for Hélène Thouy (Animalist Party) and 25 for Georges Kuzmanovic (Sovereign Republic). Their name is unknown to the general public and yet they are candidates for the presidential election. And for them, as for all candidates from small structures, the first obstacle to overcome is to collect by March 4 the 500 sponsorships of elected officials necessary to become an official candidate in the race for the Élysée.

“It’s a job that is exhausting and, above all, that blocks us on everything else because while we’re busy collecting sponsorships, we don’t have time to campaign”, regrets Hélène Thouy, the candidate of the Animalist Party, contacted by France 24.

>> To read on Presidential: what is the essential rule of 500 sponsorships to run for the Élysée?

His party may have established itself in the political landscape in recent years with, in particular, 64,000 votes obtained in the 2017 legislative elections – which allows it to obtain public funding of 90,000 euros per year – and 2.17% of the votes cast at the 2019 Europeans, Hélène Thouy is still far from the 500 sponsorships required.

“Today, 84% of French people say that the animal cause is important to them and 47% who say that the candidates’ proposals on this subject could influence their vote. It’s gigantic. But because of the current system and in particular the lifting of the anonymity of sponsorships, it has become even more complicated for a small party like ours to emerge”, denounces the candidate.

The system of 500 sponsorships was created to avoid the proliferation of applications and in particular those deemed “folkloric”. The law of April 25, 2016 modified the rules for collecting these sponsorships, which until then had been anonymous. Since the 2017 presidential election, the identity of the elected officials who sponsored each candidate has thus been known in real time or almost – the Constitutional Council publishes the list of sponsorships, updated every Tuesday and Thursday, on its website.

However, most of the candidates who are struggling to obtain these 500 sponsorships evoke the pressures suffered by the mayors not to grant their signature to “small” candidates who could hinder the “big ones”.

“We accumulate many handicaps and we exhaust our activists”

“Our system favors four or five institutional parties and only aims to prevent the existence of inconvenient candidates. Because in reality, unserious candidates do not even try to obtain their sponsorships”, underlines Anasse Kazib, candidate of the far-left Permanent Revolution party, contacted by France 24.

“Obviously you need a filter, but for smaller formations with less means, there is not enough time to collect 500 sponsorships. And the fact that the mayors themselves have to send their sponsorship creates acts of piracy by certain candidates. There are many risks of error. All of this is very random”, judge Georges Kuzmanovic, former close friend of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who founded the Sovereign Republic party in 2019, contacted by France 24.

To win this race against the clock, you have to demonstrate organization and strategy. Thanks to data from past elections, the map of France of the mayors who provide the most sponsorships is studied. The standard profile of the elected representative most likely to give his signature is established. Teams of volunteers ready to criss-cross France and knock on the doors of mayors are set up.

>> To read also on Presidential candidates are desperately looking for sponsorship from elected officials

“It’s a very time-consuming job that requires a lot of human resources throughout the territory. We accumulate many handicaps and we exhaust our activists”, recognizes Georges Kuzmanovic.

Especially since these three candidates are not political professionals. If Georges Kuzmanovic, currently unemployed after being made redundant in September 2021 from Ubisoft, has free time, Anasse Kazib is an SNCF signalman at the Bourget marshalling station and Hélène Thouy is a lawyer.

“The flagship election of our democracy”

Despite the difficulties, they hope to achieve this goal of 500 sponsorships. And if they have no illusions about the outcome of the presidential election and their chances of victory, participating in the official campaign would allow them to gain notoriety and, above all, to advance their ideas.

“It is the flagship election of our democracy, the one where the major issues are debated and which will set the major issues for the years to come, underlines Hélène Thouy. So to make animal defense a central subject, you have to be present in this election. The vast majority of people do not know us. However, from the moment we benefit from the same speaking time as the other candidates, our message will gain in visibility.

>> To see and read on Who are the candidates for the presidential election?

“I consider that a new far left candidacy was needed which brings a breath of fresh air in the current period, believes Anasse Kazib for his part. Candidates like Philippe Poutou (NPA) or Nathalie Arthaud (LO) have a defeatist speech and routine for the working class. I bring a renewal that arouses enthusiasm in my meetings, especially among young people and abstainers. Only the French do not know it because candidates like me are invisible to the media.

“There will be a fourth social round next fall with social uprisings like Yellow Vests but much stronger, understands Georges Kuzmanovic. Being a presidential candidate can therefore make it possible to make oneself known and to test the program that we defend, which takes up the line of the National Council of Resistance, particularly in terms of solidarity. It is a line which, in my opinion, is the majority in the country but which has difficulty in expressing itself politically.

The challenge is also, for these “small” candidates, to put themselves in a favorable position with a view to the legislative elections in June, the results of which will condition the public financing of the parties for the next five years. Hammering out your message for the duration of a national campaign, participating in televised debates alongside the outgoing president, Emmanuel Macron, and candidates like Valérie Pécresse or Marine Le Pen can therefore make it possible to garner votes in June. For Hélène Thouy, Anasse Kazib and Georges Kuzmanovic, the presidential election should serve as a spotlight for their ideas. But it is still necessary to pass the ax of 500 sponsorships.

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