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French Voting for Left-Wing Presidential Nominee

  • VOA News

Former French minister and candidate Arnaud Montebourg votes in the first round of the French left's presidential primary election in Montret, France, Jan. 22, 2017.

French left-wing voters are casting their ballots in a Socialist Party presidential primary to choose a candidate they hope will be strong enough to effectively confront conservative and nationalist rivals in the April-May general election.

Center-leaning former Prime Minister Manuel Valls is a leading contender among seven candidates, but faces formidable challenges from harder-core leftists Arnaud Montebourg and Benoit Hamon, both former government ministers.

Manuel Valls, former French prime minister and candidate in the left's first-round presidential primaries, attends a political rally as he campaigns in Paris, Jan. 20, 2017.
Manuel Valls, former French prime minister and candidate in the left's first-round presidential primaries, attends a political rally as he campaigns in Paris, Jan. 20, 2017.

The top two Socialist primary winners advance to a runoff scheduled for next Sunday. But many analysts say the party winner is likely to be ousted in the first round of the presidential election in April, in a country marked by anti-immigrant populism and economic stagnation.

The far-right National Front party of Marine Le Pen is generally expected to dominate the first round, reflecting a wider populist backlash in Europe and the U.S., where President Donald Trump took office Friday.

President Francois Hollande declined to seek re-election, fearing his record-low popularity would hurt the Socialists' chances of keeping the presidency.

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