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17 Register for French Presidential Elections

A record number of candidates have registered for presidential elections in France. If all are confirmed as having met the registration requirements, there will be 17 names on the ballot April 21.

The incumbent president, Jacques Chirac, and his Socialist challenger, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, had no difficulty qualifying by Tuesday's night's deadline.

Among the challengers campaigning hard to get on the ballot was Jean Marie LePen, head of the far-right National Front. He has claimed that Mr. Chirac's supporters were trying to keep him from running, so he would not draw voters away from the president. Chirac supporters countered that those accusations were meant to draw media attention.

But Mr. LePen says he has obtained the required 500 signatures from local and national elected officials representing at least 30 of France's 96 administrative departments. The endorsements will be checked and the final list of candidates published on Thursday.

Mr. LePen is expected to draw about 10 percent of the vote in the first round of balloting on April 21. However, only the president and prime minister are expected to face off in the May 5 runoff.

Many French use the first round of balloting as an opportunity to cast protest votes for lesser known candidates.

Commentators here have decried what they say has been a dull campaign between Mr. Chirac and Mr. Jospin, who have both held national office for many years. Commentators say the first round may provide the only political fireworks.