PARIS - He doesn't think he'll win - but Jose Bove, the anti-globalization hero once jailed for wrecking a McDonald's restaurant, insists he's serious about running for the French presidency.
After another brush with the law, the mustachioed sheep farmer could be behind bars again within months. But that's not deterring him from his mission to defeat the political right, get people to vote, and above all, wrench power from the elite and return it to the people.
"This is a form of electoral insurrection ... The ballot box must also be a weapon," he told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.
One of 12 candidates vying in the April 22 first-round vote, Bove is making his first bid to become French president.
Most polls give but 2 percent of the vote to the activist once held up as a national hero for wrecking a McDonald's restaurant in southern France in 1999. Bove is not discouraged: A poll by the LH2 firm issued Thursday put him in seventh place - ahead of five other candidates.
The top two candidates in the first round of the election go to a May 6 runoff vote.
"I'm not presumptuous. I don't objectively think I'll be one of those two," Bove said. "That doesn't mean that the combat isn't important."
This is hardly Bove's first tangle with nearly insurmountable odds. He has long led an anti-globalization campaign in France and abroad, protesting the "McDomination" of the world.
Now, Bove - who does not belong to a political party - is looking closer to home to help restore democracy "confiscated" by the political elite to the French citizenry.
Bove said he wants to reach out to potential voters who don't bother to vote "because they no longer believe in politics."
Many on the left fear that Bove and other small leftist candidates with no chance of winning will steal votes from the mainstream left candidate, Socialist Segolene Royal, and hand victory to conservative front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy - or worse.
In 2002, a fractured leftist vote handed second place to far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, knocking Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin out of the running and rattling France. President Jacques Chirac easily beat Le Pen in the runoff.
Bove rejected those concerns. "If there are two rounds, it is so you can vote according to your convictions in the first," he said.
"We must get our voice back."
Bove lost a judicial battle in February when an appeals court upheld a four-month jail sentence handed down in 2005 for destroying a field of genetically modified corn. He has yet to serve that time.
Meanwhile, he can look ahead to an Oct. 2 trial for allegedly destroying another GM crop. The court delayed that trial, set for last month, because of Bove's bid for the presidency.
He is not the only presidential candidate with a conviction on his record, or a trial hanging over his head.
The 78-year-old far-right leader, Le Pen, has been convicted at least six times of racism and anti-Semitism. He faces a court in June for denying the brutality of the World War II Nazi occupation of France in a 2005 interview.
Bove - who lives in a farm house atop the Larzac plateau in southeastern France raising sheep for making Roquefort cheese - now looks keenly to the housing projects ringing big cities, alienated from mainstream politics, wracked by tensions with police and hit by riots in 2005. He announced his candidacy in one poor suburb and has made numerous visits to others.
"Citizens must always have the last word," he said.
© 2007 The Associated Press.