Barack Obama, next French president?

Four friends launch a petition to ask former U.S. President Barack Obama to campaign in France’s 2017 presidential election.

LE BOURGET, FRANCE (HOST BROADCASTER) – Could former U.S. President Barack Obama one day become president of France?

Probably not, but that’s not stopping a group of French campaigners from trying. What began as a joke between four friends discussing the upcoming French presidential elections over a beer, the “Obama17” campaign petition has since gone viral.

With campaigners saying they have collected over 40,000 signatures so far, they hope to rope Obama in as a candidate before the French hit the polls over two voting rounds in April and May.

Obama17 posters around Paris read “Oui! On peut”, French for the Democrat politician’s memorable “Yes we can” slogan, and a dedicated website has been created to entice voters.

Wearing cut-out Obama face masks to hide their identities at their request, the four friends behind the campaign told Reuters TV on Sunday (February 26) that although the former president’s name came up in jest, they went ahead with the idea to voice their frustration.

“We realised we didn’t want to vote for anyone and especially, we were fed up after years of voting against a candidate instead of for a president who we really believe in. And so someone put Obama’s name on the table. We laughed about it a lot at first and then we said to each other that we had to do it for real to denounce all of it, and that’s what we did,” one of the campaigners said.

Two opinion polls on Sunday (February 26) projected that independent candidate Emmanuel Macron would beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the second round of elections in May.

Macron moved ahead of former favourite Francois Fillon, after the conservative candidate had been hobbled by allegations that he paid his wife and other family members for fake parliamentary jobs.

“We’re worried that it (the campaign) will lead us to make choices that are too radical and that it’ll promote candidates who are outside the system like in the United States, Trump, we don’t want that to happen to us,” another Obama2017 campaigner said.

The group hopes to garner 1 million signatures by March 15 to persuade the former U.S. president to join the race.

Several Americans have emailed the campaigners to say that if they succeed in their campaign they would move to France, the group told Reuters TV.

Out on the streets of Paris, some residents said they could be swayed by the alternative choice on the ballot.

“It’s true that Obama made everyone dream during the eight years he’s in power in the United States and we’re struggling to find someone who has a bit of charisma, someone to embody, to be at the head of France,” Parisian Alexis said.