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As of Feb. 7, Ms. Le Pen had slightly more than 350 signatures from a potential pool of 42,000 officials around France.

Even the leading candidates sense that democracy will not be served if Ms. Le Pen, with her considerable following, is not present in the election.

“It would be a problem, I admit it,” Mr. Hollande said in a television interview. Mr. Sarkozy said that a party drawing millions “should be able to be represented in the presidential race.”

Several polling firms already have sounded the electorate to gauge what Ms. Le Pen’s absence would mean for other candidates. Conclusion: The overall turnout rate would fall and Mr. Sarkozy would profit most from new votes.