French primary vote to leave two in running for Socialist presidential nomination

News Hour:

Voting was under way on Sunday to whittle down Socialist candidates for the French presidential ticket to two from seven, with ex-prime minister Manuel Valls facing an outside risk of failing to make the runoff vote in a week’s time.

Opinion polls suggest no Socialist has much chance of winning the presidential election this Spring, but they show the outcome of the beleaguered ruling party’s primary potentially determining which of the other candidates can replace Francois Hollande at the Elysee palace, reports Reuters.

While Valls struggles to defend his government’s record, candidates to his left, such as former education minister Benoit Hamon and ex-economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, are nipping at his heels in the polls.

Polling stations opened at 0800 GMT and are due to close at 1800 GMT. A runoff will then be held on Jan. 29 to pick a candidate for the two-round presidential election on April 23 and May 7.

Organisers said 400,000 people had voted by midday based on data obtained from almost two-thirds of the polling sites, compared with 744,500 at the same time in the first round of the last primary in 2011.

The Socialist party, for decades one of the main political forces in France, has become marginalized with support for Hollande evaporating as he has failed to turn the economy around and alienated left-wing voters with his economic policies.

The Socialists’ choice of presidential candidate will be key for the chances of popular independent Emmanuel Macron, who is attracting middle ground voters who Valls also appeals to.

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