French left battles for relevance in Socialist primary


France’s ailing, divided Socialists hold the first round of voting in their presidential primary Sunday, seeking unity and relevance as the country veers to the right after four years of leftist rule.
Leading the field of seven candidates chasing the Socialist nomination is former prime minister Manuel Valls, who put a stern face on the left by forcing through unpopular labour reforms. Neck-and-neck for second are two candidates from the party’s left flank, the protectionist maverick Arnaud Montebourg and Benoit Hamon, who has called for a universal basic income.
The odds will be stacked against whoever emerges victorious from the January 29 runoff, with polls showing the Socialists failing to get past the first round of the presidential election on April 23.
Polls show the election shaping up as a three-way contest between conservative ex-premier Francois Fillon, far-right leader Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, a popular former economy minister in Francois Hollande’s Socialist government. Macron, a relative newcomer to politics who quit the government last year to found his own centrist En Marche! (“On the Move”) movement, is stealing the limelight from his rivals.—APP

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