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Valls and Hamon compete for French Socialist Party's presidential nomination

France's governing Socialist Party picks its presidential candidate this weekend in the decisive round of a primary process which has highlighted the divisions in the movement that propelled Francois Hollande to power five years ago.

Mr Hollande decided not to seek a second term after a reign plagued by terror attacks, and his former prime minister Manuel Valls will be seeking to overcome rival Benoit Hamon, who out-polled him in last week's first round in which seven Socialist contenders were whittled down to two.

Whoever wins on Sunday faces a job to retain the keys to the Elysee Palace for the party, with polling suggesting the official Socialist candidate will finish fifth in April's first round of the presidential vote.

However, bad publicity this week for centre-right candidate Francois Fillon, expected to duel for the Elysee with the far-right's Marine Le Pen in May, could throw an unexpected lifeline to France's left.

Mr Valls, who quit as prime minister last month, has found it hard to disassociate himself from Mr Hollande's policies, whereas Mr Hamon's programme, including a basic income, has been branded unrealistic by critics.

Mr Hamon polled 35% in the first round of the primary with Mr Valls on 31%, but there are alternatives for voters disenchanted with the Socialists but put off by a potential duel between Ms Le Pen and Mr Fillon in May.

Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist who had been a Socialist finance minister until quitting last year to run for the presidency outside his former party's process, is picking up support with his new En Marche! movement, which he defines as being neither left or right.

Leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon is also polling ahead of the Socialists.

Mr Fillon faced adverse publicity this week about finance.

An investigation was launched after satirical paper Le Canard Enchaine reported Mr Fillon's Welsh wife Penelope had been paid for unspecified parliamentary work, claims branded "misogynist" by Mr Fillon, a 62-year-old father of five.

It remains to be seen if the claims have any bearing on his poll ratings.


From Belfast Telegraph