London, Jan 11: Eric Cantona’s bid to run for the president of France has elicited nervous reactions across the political spectrum, even though it emerged that his main purpose was to raise awareness about housing in the country.
The prospect of Cantona launching a bid for French presidency was heralded by a report in the French daily Liberation claiming that he intended to take on Nicolas Sarkozy and other top contenders.
But associates of the man called King Eric by Manchester United fans said he did not harbour presidential ambitions.
Instead, Cantona has sought 500 signatures from French mayors – a requirement for any candidate to stand in April’s election – to promote awareness of the country’s poorly housed on behalf of the Abbe-Pierre Foundation, a charity of which he is a patron.
The charity wants candidates to pledge to build 500,000 new social homes per year for five years and hopes the footballer’s initiative will pile more pressure on them to do so.
“He will indeed seek 500 signatures, not for the election but so that housing is a priority (among candidates),” the Telegraph quoted Patrick Doutreligne, of the Abbe-Pierre Foundation, as saying.
“You need a spur like Cantona to give housing the place it deserves in this campaign,” he said.
“If I’ve chosen housing, it’s because I think it’s essential and affects 10 million people,” Cantona told Liberation.
He had entered the political fray back in 2010 with an unsuccessful campaign to get the French to take all their money out of the bank in protest at casino capitalism.
His latest foray received a wary response from France’s political class.
“If every time you have a great cause to defend you have to become a presidential candidate, you risk diverting the role and the institution,” Michel Sapin, a spokesman for Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, was quoted as saying.
Junior housing minister Benoist Apparu acknowledged the need for improved housing, but insisted the number of French affected was closer to 3.5 million.
Meanwhile, leftist presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon supported Cantona and urged him to go all the way
“An election is a great moment of democracy. Why wouldn’t he get his 500 signatures?” he said. (ANI)