France's presidential election season is swinging into high gear, with partial results showing Francois Hollande easily winning the primaries of the main opposition Socialist Party. Analysts say the left has serious chance of beating incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy next year.
Ask Principal, a Corsican hospital worker in his '50s, what his main worry is these days and the answer is, "the economy and unemployment."
Principal says his 21-year-old daughter cannot find a job. He says Europe's spreading financial crisis is beginning to hurt, and he believes the left is the best choice for France. Principal voted for Francois Hollande, who ran against fellow Socialist Martine Aubry, in the second round of primaries on Sunday.
Jean Maestrali, who owns a restaurant in this seaside Corsican town, also votes Socialist. But he abstained from casting his ballot this time around, because his chosen candidate, former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is not running.
Maestri says Strauss-Kahn is the only man capable of beating Mr. Sarkozy. But Strauss-Kahn's political career was derailed earlier this year by sexual assault charges.
The Socialists have not won a presidential election here in nearly two decades. But Philippe Moreau Defarges, of the French Institute of International Relations, is among a number of analysts who believe that might change. "It is clear that many French maybe would like to have a new power, a new kind of government. That is why maybe by putting in power a new camp will be very attractive for many French people," he said.
Mr. Sarkozy's popularity has been at record lows for months. Government spending cuts, aimed to slice France's high deficit, have only fueled public discontent, prompting strikes and demonstrations. "The economy will dominate all the presidential election. It is clear today the main issue is economics," he said.
Mr. Hollande is trying to cast himself as a centrist, someone who is capable of rallying French of different views around his ticket. But Mr. Sarkozy is known as a good fighter when the chips are down.
And as Moreau Defarges notes, the campaign is only just beginning.