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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 02:43 GMT
France's record presidential choices
Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac: The incumbent president
A record 16 candidates are contesting the French presidential election to be held in two rounds on 21 April and 5 May:

Jacques Chirac, 69, is the incumbent president, a former prime minister, one-time mayor of Paris and a conservative. Some believe he has the edge over his closest rival Lionel Jospin, but analysts have warned that a series of sleaze allegations concerning Mr Chirac and his Rally for the Republic party could take their toll.

Lionel Jospin
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin is strongly placed
Lionel Jospin, the 64-year-old socialist Prime Minister. Despite several legislative setbacks in the past two months, Mr Jospin nonetheless looks well-placed to launch a convincing challenge to Mr Chirac. He only narrowly lost to the current president in the 1995 elections.

Jean-Pierre Chevenement, 62, a former interior minister whose left-wing republican nationalism has broad appeal. Mr Chevenement has been seen as a possible kingmaker. If no-one wins more than 50% in the first round, the candidate who Mr Chevenement throws his weight behind could emerge as the winner.

Jean-Marie Le Pen
Jean-Marie Le Pen: Far-right campaigner
Jean-Marie Le Pen, 73. The head of the extreme-right National Front, stripped of his political rights for two years in 1998 for assaulting another politician, could put up a reasonable showing in the first round.

Bruno Megret, 52, set up another far-right group after departing from the National Front, but despite some local success, he is widely seen to lack the charisma attributed to Mr Le Pen.

Noel Mamere, the 53-year-old Green Party candidate was not activists' first choice, but took over when a rival resigned. His support is reported to have marginally dropped in the past few weeks, from 7% to 6%.

Arlette Laguiller, 61, of the Trotskyite Workers' Struggle. She is one of the few women in the race. The party has benefited from defecting supporters of the Communist Party, whose candidate Ms Laguiller is beating in the opinion polls.

Arlette Laguiller
Arlette Laguiller is one of the few women in the race

Robert Hue, 57, the Communist Party leader. The former singer faces tough competition from Ms Laguiller, and will be hoping for a surprise showing to boost his party's fading fortunes.

Francois Bayrou, 50, was Education Minister for several years in the mid-1990s, before becoming leader of the centre-right UDF. He started campaigning early, but so far to apparently little effect.

Jean-Pierre Chevenement
Jean-Pierre Chevenement: The possible kingmaker
Jean Saint Josse is the head of the Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions Party which has strong regional support in the southwest and north. However, its limited agenda is unlikely to make much headway in urban areas.

Alain Madelin, 56, of the Liberal Democracy party. He advocates a brand of free-market liberalism which is deemed unlikely to find a strong following in France.

Daniel Gluckstein, 48, national secretary of the Party of Workers. He has a codename - "Seljuk".

Christiane Taubira, 50, of the Left Radical Party. She represents the overseas territory of French Guyana in parliament, and is the first black to run for the presidency.

Olivier Besancenot,27, of the Revolutionary Communist League. The youngest candidate.

Corinne Lepage, 50, of Cap 21, a right-wing environmentalist group.

Christine Boutin, 58, who was suspended from Mar Bayrou's UDF. She was a visceral opponent of Jospin's Civil Solidarity Pact - a legal union for gays.

See also:

05 Feb 02 | Europe
Analysis: Crime or conspiracy?
11 Dec 01 | Europe
France sets election date
14 Jun 01 | Europe
Dirty French campaign kicks off
27 Nov 01 | Europe
Jospin corruption charges dropped
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