More than 40,000 people have signed a petition attempting to convince Barack Obama to run for the French presidency as voters face an increasingly dire choice between scandal-hit politicians.
Ahead of France’s presidential election, posters of Barack Obama have popped up around Paris in what started as a joke by four friends pretending to launch a campaign for the former US leader.
The unofficial Obama17 campaign with the slogan “Oui on peut” (French for “Yes we can”) is attracting strong support, despite the fact it would be impossible for the former US President to run as a foreign national.
The organisers are aiming to garner a million signatures by 15 March in favour of Mr Obama in time for the closing date for candidacies, even if his inclusion in the election is impossible.
Calling their country’s current election campaign a “failure”, the group contends that Mr Obama has the “best resumé in the world for the job” – a sentiment that at least 42,365 people currently share.
According to the organizers, they also chose Mr Obama because “at a time when France is about to vote massively for a far-Right candidate, we can teach the rest of the planet a lesson in democracy by electing a French president who is a foreigner.”
The organisers say they want citizens to take back control of the elections and are admirers of the Podemos group in Spain, pointing out that the English translation for the movement is close to Mr Obama’s catch phrase of “Yes we can”.
Speaking to a local TV, one of the organizers said; “We like saying it’s a joke, but in truth the idea takes its roots in us being fed up with French citizens rejecting politics.
“We’re scared this (rejection) will push people to vote for candidates outside the system like Trump in the US. We don’t want that.”
A statement from the organizers says the French are ready to make radical choices, promising to jolt France out of its ‘lethargy.’
“To launch this 6th Republic, we wish to strike a blow by electing a foreign President at the leader of our beautiful country.
“Barack Obama has completed his second term as President of the United States on 21 January, why not hire him as the President for France?”
The petition comes after polls gave far-right candidate Marine Le Pen a lead in the first round of voting in April, although she is expected to lose the decisive second round to a more establishment candidate.
The Front National leader, who is pledging to slash immigration, hold an EU referendum and ditch Nato, has been accused of racism and xenophobia despite her attempts to distance her party from her father’s anti-Semitism convictions.
Her main competition is the independent Emmanuel Macron, Francois Hollande’s former economy minister, who resigned in August to launch his own liberal En Marche! party.
His campaign suffered a setback earlier this month when he was forced to deny rumours of a gay extramarital affair, but has recovered to lead recent polls.