February 13, 2012 / 4:36 PM / 8 years ago

Quirky hopefuls liven up French presidential race

PARIS (Reuters) - From a peroxide-blonde stripper who wants to get bankers meditating to a Rastafarian advocating tantrism as a national religion, a string of colorful outsiders are vying for a place in France’s 2012 presidential election.

One wants to bring back the monarchy, another says leaders should be picked by lottery and a third is a clown who doesn’t actually have any campaign proposals.

None are likely to drum up the 500 mayoral signatures required to run in the April-May election, but they all hope to strike a chord with voters fed up with mainstream politics.

“A clown won the last election, and we’ll only get another one this time, so why not vote for me instead?” said Mimi the Clown, who is standing for a second time, complete with black-and-white panstick makeup, red nose and super-hero garb.

The 37-year-old artist from Lille said he has no program or proposals at all, “like the rest of them,” and isn’t even seeking mayoral signatures. But voters using his homemade voting slips April 6 will be making a protest, he said.

“Lots of people in France are saying they should vote for (far-right) Marine Le Pen in protest. I think voting for me would be a much more intelligent way to do it,” he told Reuters.

In the southeastern town of Valences, fencing teacher Francois Amanrich, 62, has a more radical solution for doing away with party politics — a return to an ancient Athenian democracy where leaders are chosen by lottery.

His Clerocrat Movement, named after the ancient Greek word kleroterion, a type of randomization machine used to select citizens for office, proposes citizens vote for local representatives, but that higher ranks be selected by a draw.

“We keep electing the presidential candidate we think is going to save us and it hasn’t worked for decades but we still carry on,” he told Reuters.

Amanrich has stood twice before, in 2002 and 2007, with little success, but this time he said he has 330 mayoral signatures behind him, thanks to support from the freemasons.

“100 PERCENT UNEMPLOYMENT”

Presidential elections the world over come with their share of weird and wacky candidates, bringing light relief to the sometimes dreary world of politics or making a tongue-in-cheek statement about the failure of the political classes to address public concerns.

Behind the bizarre proposals in France lies a clear public disaffection with mainstream politics, exacerbated by four years of economic crisis that have driven unemployment to a 12-year high and left many households feeling worse off than in years.

President Nicolas Sarkozy won power in 2007 promising to ramp up purchasing power and slash unemployment. Instead, as crisis gripped the world and French growth has slowed to zero, he is clutching at German ideas to bolster competitiveness.

Far from his 2007 campaign pledge to get people “working more to earn more,” critics say his plans for German-style measures to help firms temporarily lay off workers amounts to having people “working less to earn less.”

A Rastafarian election candidate, who calls himself “Rasta President,” wants to push this further, promoting 100 percent unemployment alongside the legalization of cannabis, with a motto of “work less, live better.”

Sporting chest-length dreadlocks and North African robes in France’s national colors, Abou Chihabiddine advocates free love, “yurt” tents for living in and tantrism as an official religion, all in a 69-point manifesto that promises to “set France’s libido free.”

“It may make you laugh, it makes me laugh too, but it’s possible. It’s society that has been conditioned to think it’s impossible,” the 31-year old musician said.

Chihabiddine has written to mayors across France seeking support, but has not yet heard back. He does, however, have the backing of the Raelian Movement, a religious sect founded by former sports-car journalist, Rael, who claims to have had repeated encounters with aliens.

On a more conventional note, Patrick de Villenoisy and his 500-member Royal Alliance, want to do away with democracy in France and bring back a constitutional monarchy.

France has had a famously tumultuous relationship with its royals, executing one king, Louis XVI, in 1793 before bringing back the monarchy in 1814. The last king, Louis-Philippe, a member of the Orleans family, was forced to abdicate in 1848.

Villenoisy, 60, says democracy has been hijacked by party politics and the need for leaders to secure re-election. Bringing back a descendant of the Bourbon dynasty or House of Orleans would get rid of that eternal conflict, he told Reuters.

At the other end of the scale, Cindy Lee, a dancer and stripper, is running for a third time as head of her Pleasure Party, promising to defend liberty and tolerance and send “a wind of hedonism across France.”

Frequently seen campaigning in various states of undress, and recently urging greater transparency outside ratings agency Standard & Poor’s in a see-through shirt, her manifesto is a surprisingly strait-laced mix of economic and social strategies.

She does however, advocate compulsory seduction classes in schools, free nudist camps and has plumped for hour-long relaxation sessions for bankers in order to keep the country angst-free.

Reporting By Vicky Buffery; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Paul Casciato

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