Nine candidates line up for each seat

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The Independent Online
PARIS - A record 5,319 candidates have applied to stand in France's National Assembly elections this month, an average of nine for each of the 577 parliamentary seats, writes Julian Nundy. Nominations, which still have to be examined for eligibility, closed on Sunday for the two-round elections on 21 and 28 March which are expected to bring a conservative landslide. At the last elections in 1988, there were 2,880 candidates.

There has been a proliferation of small, fringe parties, particularly ecologist groups distinct from the two main ecology parties which are fighting on a joint platform. For example, there are 51 candidates for the little known New Ecologists of the Nature and Animals' Rally.

One candidate, who says he is HIV-positive, is standing in Lyon against the Gaullist Alain Merieux. The Merieux family runs the Institut Merieux which has been accused of exporting HIV-contaminated blood products, mainly to the Third World, in the 1980s after methods for making safe products were known.