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France election: Presidential candidates accuse Macron of skirting campaign rules

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By Alice Tidey  with AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron, and Ile-de-France regional council president Valerie Pecresse (L), visits Les Mureaux, outside Paris, Feb. 20, 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron, and Ile-de-France regional council president Valerie Pecresse (L), visits Les Mureaux, outside Paris, Feb. 20, 2018.   -   Copyright  Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP   -  

French presidential candidates are exhorting President Emmanuel Macron to officialise his candidacy, accusing him of using his position to campaign while skirting rules.

Valérie Pecresse, the candidate for the mainstream right-wing Les Republicains party, on Monday filed a complaint with the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) over an upcoming televised interview with Macron.

The hour and a half interview with the president, titled "Where is France heading?", is to be aired in primetime on Wednesday evening on TF1 and LCI.

Pécressed told reporters she filed the complaint with the regulator — which monitors politicians and parties' speaking time to ensure none is given more coverage on radio or television — because "we cannot have a candidate president who has the television channels open on demand and spends hours campaigning, while his opponents have to make do with five minutes of duplex to respond to him".

"This is not my conception of democracy" and "I ask the CSA to restore equality of speaking time and democratic fair play", she added.

Her spokesperson Geoffroy Didier called on the CSA to deduct Macron's interview from his campaign speaking time, writing on Twitter: "We all understand that the outgoing president is already a candidate, stop the pretence!"

Under CSA rules, the government is allotted a third of political speaking time with political parties, including the ruling party, sharing the remaining two-thirds.

'Open secret'

Macron's party, La Republique en Marche (LREM), is the only major formation not to have designated an official candidate yet with just four months to go until the first round of the election but Macron is widely expected to run.

The Elysée said that the interview, filmed earlier this week, is similar to the one he conducted at around the same time last year to discuss his presidency so far and what he intends to do in the upcoming months as the country helms the rotating six-month EU presidency.

But Pécresse, who won her party's nomination early this month following a primary contest, is not the only disgruntled candidate.

Boris Vallaud, a spokesperson for the Socialist Party, also took exception to the interview, writing on Twitter on Tuesday that "French men and women should not be summoned by the President for his campaign without being told so."

"In a democracy, the rules must be clear and the same for everyone," he added, describing Macron's presidency as "a five-year period of muddled democracy."

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen called on Macron to put an end to suspense without delay. "The French expect frankness, transparency, all that needs to be said is 'I will be candidate for re-election'," she said on RMC.

A spokesperson for Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of the left-wing populist La France Insoumise party, also urged Macron to put an end to an "open secret."

In September, the CSA decided to start counting Eric Zemmour's speaking time as that of a politician. The radical right personality was then a presenter and pundit on news channel CNews. He has since then announced his candidacy for the country's top job.