French presidential race heats up

A new chapter has opened in France’s closely contested presidential election campaign on Sunday as Socialists voted to choose their champion and conservatives fought to keep their scandal-hit campaign on track.

According to the report, polling opened at 8 a.m. in a primary runoff that pits pro-business ex-prime minister Manuel Valls against hard-left lawmaker Benoit Hamon for the Socialist ticket.

A result was expected by the end of today.

Francois Fillon was chosen as conservative candidate in 2016 by his party The Republicans but hurt last week by a newspaper claim that his wife was paid for fake work.

He is also due to hold a rally on the outskirts of Paris.

Hamon is favourite to beat Valls in the Socialist primary’s head-to-head vote; even though the outcome remains uncertain given that any voter can take part.

By midday, the high turnout Valls has been calling for looked likely, with over half a million people taking part by midday.

Neither man has much chance of winning the presidential race itself, though, after five years of unpopular Socialist rule.

Until Fillon tripped up over his British wife Penelope’s pay, prompting the opening of an official inquiry into the matter, he was preferred to move into the Elysee presidential palace.

Opinion polls showed him beating far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen in a run-off vote on May 7 with a comfortable two-thirds of the vote.

Popularity polls since have shown his rating slip slightly, although there have been no polls on voting intentions since the scandal broke.

Nevertheless, Sunday’s outcome is important to the election.

It is also important for the future of the Socialist party, unpopular after five years of high unemployment under President Francois Hollande and split by a pro-business policy u-turn that angered its left-wingers.

(Source: Reuters/NAN)