Friday 28 April 2017

Valls and Hamon advance in French primary

Former French prime minister Manuel Valls leaves the voting booth. (AP/Christophe Ena)
Former French prime minister Manuel Valls leaves the voting booth. (AP/Christophe Ena)

Partial results suggest that Manuel Valls will confront stalwart Socialist Benoit Hamon in the France's left-wing presidential primary run-off.

Organisers of Sunday's first round of primary voting said Mr Hamon, a former government minister, was leading with 35.2% followed by Mr Valls - , a centre-leaning former prime minister who rallied France together after extremist attacks - with 31.6%, based on more than one-third of the vote count.

Whoever wins the January 29 primary run-off will face the April-May presidential election battling more popular candidates from the far right to the far left riding frustration with immigration and economic stagnation.

Mr Hamon would tax robots, legalise cannabis and give all citizens 750 euro a month.

Mr Valls paints himself as a bastion against populism and would continue pro-business reforms.

Mr Valls jumped in the presidential race in December, a few days after Socialist President Francois Hollande declined to seek re-election -acknowledging his personal unpopularity would lead his Socialist party to defeat in the presidential battle.

The 54-year-old has faced fierce attacks from harder-left rivals who associate him with Mr Hollande's unpopular moves to relax labour protections to encourage hiring.

He argues that he has the experience that France's next leader will need as the country is facing the threat of extremist attacks, and to revitalise a lagging economy.

The Spanish-born politician became a naturalised French at the age of 20, and is promising to decrease taxes for modest and middle-class households and to boost police and defence.

Mr Hamon, 49, is a lower-profile politician yet he gained popularity by leading a group of rebel Socialist politicians who opposed Mr Valls.

A former junior minister and education minister, he left the government in 2014 after he expressed disagreement with Mr Valls's pro-business policies.

He is pledging to push for the introduction of a 750 euro (£650) "universal income" living allowance for all adults in the country.

The competition promises to be tough for the Socialist nominee in the race for the two-round presidential election on April 23 and May 7.

Polls show more support for conservative candidate Francois Fillon and National Front leader Marie Le Pen.

The left also faces a growing challenge from centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, a former investment banker who led Mr Hollande's reforms as economy minister, but refused to take part in the Socialist primary.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon is drawing voters away from the establishment Socialists, too.

Overshadowing the Socialist voting is the nationalist sentiment that helped fuel Donald Trump's successful campaign for the US presidency and in several countries around Europe.

Ms Le Pen and other European far-right leaders came together on Saturday in Germany in a show of strength before multiple European elections this year.

AP

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