With food fights and political statements by Harry Potter, Yoda, Aladdin and Pamela Anderson – French presidential election campaigns are far from boring recitations of candidates' agendas.
Although eleven candidates have signed up for the election, media attention concentrated on four "heroes,"who are neck and neck in opinion polls. Meet Republican Francois Fillon, the right-wing hardliner Marine Le Pen, the liberal Emmanuel Macron and independent Jean-Luke Mélenchon, the four candidates who have probably made this French presidential election the most unpredictable ever.
This election, like the scandal-riddled 2016 US election, was marked by leaks from the whistleblowing group WikiLeaks. The group has reminded the whole world that it does have potentially sensitive files on three rivals - Macron, Fillon and Le Pen.
Some freedom-loving French have called for former US President Barack Obama to become their next leader, even launching a campaign website to that end. The tiny problem that Obama isn't a French citizen didn't faze them in the least.
However, it appears that after two terms in the White House the ex-US commander-in-chief is enjoying some down time.
Francois Fillon, who served as Prime Minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, is now trying to handle the ongoing scandal over "PenelopeGate" - a damaging media report alleging that his wife Penelope was unfairly paid over €900,000 ($970,000) as his “parliamentary assistant.”
Duting Fillon's political career, Penelope has preferred to keep to the shadows and stay in the posh chateau in the Solesmes commune with their five children, without any evidence she has actually done any work to earn the money.
Devant vous mes amis, je veux dire à Penelope que je l’aime et que je ne pardonnerai jamais à ceux qui ont voulu nous jeter aux loups. pic.twitter.com/0y9ISGOGpc— François Fillon (@FrancoisFillon) January 29, 2017
Still, Francois Fillon has always defended Welsh-born Penelope and made emotional speeches on several occasions, calling to take his spouse out of political debates.
However, the media wouldn’t stop digging, and angry Fillon said he was a target of a "witch hunt" back in March this year.
"What could explain that hundreds of journalists, at the very least dozens, go through my garbage to find out about my suits. Tomorrow it will be my shirts and then why not my underpants as well?" he exclaimed to journalists.
However, the "underpants" statement did stir social media:
The misfortunes of the presidential hopeful just won’t let up. In early April he was hit in the face with flour in the eastern city of Strasbourg.
In March netizens were left in a tizzy after Emmanuel Macron, the youngest presidential candidate in the 2017 election, made a geography gaffe, mistaking French Guiana for an island.
“What’s been happening in French Guiana over the past few days is serious. My first response is a call for calm, because blocking the airport runways and takeoffs – and sometimes even blocking off the function of the island itself – is not the response to the situation,” Macron who was on a tour of France’s overseas territories
In fact, French Guiana, one of five French overseas territories, isn’t an island at all, but part of the coast of South America and the second largest region of France.
Like his presidential rival Fillon, the liberal got food thrown in his face. It was somewhat more painful for him, too: what he got was an egg, right in the forehead.
However, not eggs or geography (and definitely not his political campaign slogans) were the most heated topic for discussions around the liberal candidate. His wife, 64-year-old Brigitte Trogneux, 24 years his senior, was examined by media in every tiny detail.
“Once his high school teacher,” “she was totally captivated by his writing skills,” “married despite his parents' objections” – this is how French media described her.
She told French media Macron decided to marry her, a mother of three, when he was just 17, and she in her 40s.
Brigitte Trogneux, wife of presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron, used tobe his French teacher.A woman who could be France's next first lady. pic.twitter.com/ldIh1BAUfy— Mahmoud Ahr (@Mahmoud_ahr) April 19, 2017
Marine Le Pen detested by Harry Potter, Yoda & Femen
The leader of the right-wing National Front party, Marine Le Pen, got her fair share of political scandal. In March she had her political immunity revoked by the European Parliament for posting graphic photos of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) victims on Twitter back in 2014. She used it to highlight the terrorist group's viciousness, but the judges said the family of the victim, James Foley, whom IS beheaded in August 2014, was very disturbed.
Many anti-Le Pen activists voiced their disagreement her in quite a violent way. Hundreds of protesters repeatedly took to the streets of Paris to rally against Le Pen over the recent months. Tear gas, smoke bombs and flares were in no short supply during the rallies.
Not only eligible French voters voiced disagreement with Le Pen. Cult characters from films and cartoons, including Master Yoda, Harry Potter, and Aladdin, have recently popped up on posters across Paris, urging people not to vote for the far-right candidate.
“You won’t start down the dark path,” the iconic Jedi Master Yoda says, as pictured on another poster, implying the comparison between Le Pen and Darth Vader or the evil Emperor.
Le Pen’s old rivals, FEMEN, have never missed a chance to lay bare their hearts in front of her.
One of Le Pen’s speeches in April was interrupted on stage by a flower-wielding FEMEN protester who was just about to remove her top.
Independent Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the only one of the big four to have so far dodged major political scandals. The candidate has been improving his ratings day on day.
Social media recently teased him for looking like Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi after he used a hologram to make a campaign speech simultaneously in several cities.
People on social media speculated that Melenchon was apparently a long-standing fan of the Star Wars saga and has probably always dreamed of being a legendary Jedi.
He is also the one whom the Baywatch star, Playboy model and PETA campaigner Pamela Anderson chose to favor.
What apparently impressed her the most was Melenchon's promise to grant asylum to WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.
“How wonderful it would be to reunite Julian [Assange] and his young family in France. Mr Melenchon for President! S'il vous plait,” Pam wrote in her blog.