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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 March 2007, 14:35 GMT
French mayor auctions endorsement
All presidential candidates must gather at least 500 endorsements
The mayor of a small French village has announced he is putting his signature up for auction for candidates in his country's 22 April presidential poll.

Andre Garrec, who heads the community of Noron-la-Poterie in northern France, said he was reacting to phone calls from various presidential hopefuls.

Every candidate must be endorsed by at least 500 elected officials to stand.

Some would-be runners, including the far-right leader Jean Marie Le Pen, are struggling to gather enough signatures.

Mr Garrec, who is mayor of a village of 300, told Le Figaro newspaper that since "these days, everything has a price", why not put a signature up for auction?

He said the practice was not illegal and would benefit the residents of the village, in the Calvados region of Normandy.

Up for auction

The front-runner for next month's presidential election, centre-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, appealed on Monday to uncommitted mayors to sign for presidential hopefuls who are struggling to get the 500 endorsements needed.


Most of the 42,000 elected officials entitled to sign are mayors, and of these the vast majority are mayors of small towns, like Noron-la-Poterie.

Every five years, at presidential election time, they suddenly become important, their signature coveted by candidates like Mr Le Pen, the National Front (FN) leader, and far-left Communist Revolutionary League leader Olivier Besancenot.

Both are short of the 500 signatures they have until 16 March to submit and both have called the system "undemocratic".

Mayor Garrec agrees, saying the system is "absurd".

"I know it generates pressures on local councillors, especially through the departmental councils," he told Le Figaro.

As of Wednesday, Mr Sarkozy's appeal had not been particularly successful, at least for Mr Le Pen.

According to Marine Le Pen, the politician's daughter and campaign manager, no elected officials had volunteered their signature, leaving him short of some 90 endorsements only nine days from the deadline.


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