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Divided French Left Seeks Presidential Candidate

French Socialists are hunting for the candidate with a populist touch to challenge Le Pen
The seven candidates aiming to become the Socialist-backed presidential candidateThe seven candidates aiming to become the Socialist-backed presidential candidate

French leftists will hold a first-round primary on Sunday to narrow the field of possible presidential candidates.

Whoever emerges the winner, however, is likely to face a resounding defeat by France’s conservatives in April-May elections, France24 reported.

With the ruling Socialists plummeting in popularity, the French left is bitterly divided. President Francois Hollande’s approval rating sank to a low of 4% late last year, largely on his failure to boost the economy and lower an unemployment rate that continues to hover near 10%.

Against this backdrop, it seems unlikely that any leftist candidate will advance beyond the April 23 first round of the presidential election.

Most polls predict that conservative François Fillon of Les Republicains party and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen will face off in the May 7 second round.

The winner and runner-up will then compete in a January 29 runoff to decide who will represent the leftists in the presidential vote.

Campaigning is likely to focus on France’s centrists and the moderate left, a vast electorate that includes factory workers, shopkeepers and Paris professional elites.

  Candidates

Socialist ex-prime minister, Manuel Valls, 54, is looking to lure centrists as well as the party’s more conservative members.

Arnaud Montebourg has only stepped up his criticism of the Socialist administration since being asked to resign as economy minister in 2014, claiming Hollande’s government has betrayed the hopes and aspirations of the left.

An advocate of protectionist policies and a strong state, the 54-year-old has proposed reserving 80% of all public contracts for French businesses, in contravention of EU rules.

Benoit Hamon, 49, has placed social and environmental issues at the heart of his platform, proposing a universal basic income to be financed through an overhaul of France’s tax system.

Former education minister, Vincent Peillon, 56, has positioned himself as a moderate, consensus-building reformist. At a time of jingoistic patriotism and widespread EU-bashing, he has struck a rare Europhile note by calling for a “European New Deal” built around harmonized tax laws, shared social rights and a common eurozone budget aimed at stimulating growth.

Ecologist Party candidate, Francois de Rugy, 43, the deputy head of France’s National Assembly, casts himself as a pragmatic reformist. He has called for a gradual transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and an end to all carbon-emitting transport by 2025.

Sylvia Pinel’s last-minute decision to take part in the primary spared the left the embarrassment of having an all-male competition. The 39-year-old’s Radical Party has put together a business-friendly platform that includes slashing corporate taxes and giving companies fiscal incentives to offer employees long-term contracts.

Jean-Luc Bennahmias, 62, of the Democratic Front party also plans to introduce some kind of universal basic income and advocates a total transition to renewable energy and sustainable farming.

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