Seven candidates compete for French left-wing presidential primaries

Six men and one woman are bidding to become the next Socialist party candidate, before next year’s Presidential election.

So far, the leading contender appears to be the former-President Manuel Valls, after the deeply unpopular Francois Hollande said he would not seek re-election.

The primaries are to be held on Jan. 22 and Jan. 29 and consist of:

  • Manuel Valls – resigned as prime minister to stand; on the right of the party.
  • Arnaud Montebourg – resigned as economy minister.
  • Benoît Hamon – leading left-wing rebel who resigned as education minister.
  • Vincent Peillon – former education minister.
  • Jean-Luc Bennahmias – leader of the Democratic Front and Union of Democrats
  • François Rugy – vice-president of the National Assembly.
  • Sylvia Pinel – former housing minister.

Valls’ biggest critic is Arnaud Montebourg, who may be his most serious challenger.

He told Le Monde newspaper: “We have an enormous problem with Valls. His policies have been, if I summarise, pro-free market and authoritarian … it has dislocated the left,”

Divisions within the left-wing party are deep. On the right side is Hollande and Valls, with their pro-business shift adopted, which has prompted rebellion among some Socialists who believe it betrayed the core left values that underpin France’s social welfare system and its worker protections.

Polls indicate that there is little chance of any Socialist candidate preventing a run-off in next year’s election between the conservative candidate, Francois Fillon, and the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

“The French will be listening carefully to the debate in January,” former economy minister, Arnaud Montebourg, told reporters. “We need the mobilisation (of voters) to be as large as possible because it is the only way to unite the Left.”

All French citizens can vote if they pay 1 euro ($1.04) and sign a document saying they share the values of the left.

Three television debates will be broadcast before the primary vote on 22 and 29 January.