Under French law, she must be sponsored by at least 500 elected officials, in practice usually one of France’s thousands of local mayors.
Sponsoring candidates does not imply support for their ideas, but the list of sponsors is published a few days before the first round and many are reluctant to be associated with the Front National.
Marine Le Pen maintains that mayors are afraid to sign for her because they fear that central government will punish them, by withholding subsidies if they facilitate her candidacy, a charge vigorously denied.
Politicians from the two biggest parties, Sarkozy’s UMP and François Hollande’s Socialist party insist that she is bluffing about her situation.
They point out that the Front National candidate always complains of trouble collecting signatures and always has enough in the end.
But some voice concern that it would be undemocratic if she cannot stand, as opinion polls suggest that she has between 17 and 20 per cent support among the electorate.
Marine Le Pen will today demonstrate in front of the France’s upper house of Parliament, where Senators are discussing a possible change in the rules so that sponsors might remain anonymous