Left-wingers fight to tackle Sarkozy
Francois Hollande, a moderate left-winger known as 'Mr Normal' will take on Martine Aubry, dubbed the 'Angela Merkel of the French Left', for the right to face Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election.
With around two million votes cast in the first round of Socialist primaries, it appeared none of the six candidates clinched more than half of the vote -- meaning France will have to wait another week for a run-off to discover who will lead the left-wing opposition.
But the Left has already scored a coup by bringing so many voters to polling booths in the country's first such primaries, open to any self-declared left-winger on the electoral roll who pays a nominal €1 fee.
"Despite the obstacles, the challenges, our wonderful democratic bet of primaries has paid off beyond our most secret hopes," said Harlem Desir, the interim party chairman.
Mr Hollande (57), long polled as favourite, had called for a "clear and clean" victory in round one to bolster his chances. Aides had suggested that a score of less than 40pc would have been a disappointment. Early exit polls suggested he scored around 40pc, while Miss Aubry gained 30pc.
That raises the prospect of a closely fought second round with a crucial face-to-face TV debate on Wednesday night.
Also key will be which candidate the four runners-up choose to support. In third place was Arnaud Montebourg (48) a rising star whose agenda focuses on "deglobalisation" and cracking down on bank speculation.
Segolene Royal (58), the failed candidate in the last presidential election, has the most intriguing choice.
Either she throws her weight behind Mr Hollande, her former partner and father of her four children, who offered her little support in 2007, or she plumps for Ms Aubry. Both publicly accused each other of vote-rigging in the contest for Socialist party chairmanship in 2008, which Ms Aubry won.
Another question is who Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief and one-time frontrunner, would choose. He was forced out of contention by a sexual assault scandal -- the charges were dropped -- but his omission threw the Socialist leadership contest wide open. Yesterday, hesaid he had voted for Ms Aubry. (© Daily Telegraph, London)