Twelve candidates have made it to the starting line of the French presidential election, including a number of far-right candidates who espouse strong immigration restrictions and have recently been criticised for pro-Putin comments.
The incumbent, Emmanuel Macron, is leading in opinion polls with Marine Le Pen, the most well-known of the far-right candidates, running second.
Ms Le Pen was criticised last week after photos of her with Russian President Vladimir Putin resurfaced.
Asked about her meeting with Mr Putin in 2017, she said: “The Vladimir Putin of five years ago is not exactly that of today,” adding that he had “crossed a red line” in attacking Ukraine.
She said the war had “partly changed” her view. “Yes, it’s an authoritarian regime, historically and in culture. Even if we are judging by our western norms, which are not Russian norms,” she said.
Far-right populist Eric Zemmour, known for his diatribes on Islam and immigration, condemned the war but said “if Putin is guilty, the West is responsible”.
The first round of the 2022 French presidential election will be held on April 10.
The President of the Constitutional Council, Laurent Fabius, announced the 12 candidates who had made it to the starting line-up on Monday.
- Nathalie Arthaud, a professor of economics representing the anti-capitalist Lutte Ouvriere
- Nicolas DuPont-Aignan, an MP for Essonne who has already run twice, winning 1.79 per cent of the vote in 2012 and 4.70 per cent in 2017
- Anne Hidalgo, making her first run for the presidency. She is the socialist mayor of Paris who has won re-election in the capital
- Jean Lassalle, who has represented the 4th constituency of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the National Assembly since 2002
- Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally party, making her third run in the presidential election.
- Emmanuel Macron won in 2017. The former deputy Secretary General of the Élysée and ex-Minister of the Economy has since faced the Covid-19 pandemic and Ukraine war
- Jean-Luc Mélenchon is a left-wing candidate running for the third time
- Yannick Jadot is a former director of campaigns for Greenpeace France
- Valérie Pécresse is a centre-right candidate who has served as President of the Regional Council of Île-de-France since 2015
- Philippe Poutou is a far-left former worker and trade unionist at Ford
- Fabien Roussel is national secretary of the French Communist Party
- Eric Zemmour is a populist far-right candidate trying to outflank Ms Le Pen