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French 2012 presidential election campaign begins - officially

By Johnny Summerton
Posted Apr 11, 2012 in Politics
It may well appear to be a strange headline given that the French have been bombarded with politics for the best part of a couple of months (and more) now.
But campaigning in the two-round presidential elections has now officially begun with television advertising spots and posters on approved local authority notice boards up and down France.
And the rules are very strict.
As far as TV spots go, each of the ten candidates has a fixed amount of airtime - 43 minutes in total - rigorously enforced and controlled by the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA), the country's broadcast watchdog.
The contents of what they can and can't talk about during their allotted 18 slots is also subject to the most polite and perhaps anachronistic rules with no banging the drum for donations allowed and an interdiction on "denigrating opponents".
Broadcasters have already had to provide equal airtime to all 10 candidates no matter how big or small since the wise men on the Conseil constitutionnel (Constitutional council) validated their eligibility to stand back on March 19.
Local authority notice boards - waiting for posters (screenshot BFM TV)
Local authority notice boards - waiting for posters (screenshot BFM TV)
Posters, which started appearing on local authority notice boards on Tuesday, are also subject to the most stringent of rules.
They mustn't be printed on a white background because that's only reserved for official announcements, and woe betide candidates who try to use any combination of red, white and blue, the colours of the French tricolore. It's against the rules and if broken will result in a fine.
And those posters - two for each candidate - are only allowed to appear on the notice boards put in place the local authority specifically for the election - although that's not always a rule to which party supporters adhere.
French presidential election 2012 posters - against the rules (screenshot BFM TV)
French presidential election 2012 posters - against the rules (screenshot BFM TV)
The French can also expect to hear pamphlets and letters plopping through their letter boxes as the postal campaign to woo the 45 million registered voters is now also allowed, but again size and format have to be the same for each candidate.
And as "officially" as the campaigning starts, so it will midnight on April 21, the day before the election, together with a ban on candidates making public statements and opinion polls being published.
They're off! The official campaign in the French presidential elections opens. TV spots, posters and mailing.

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