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French Socialists Pick Presidential Candidate


Benoit Hamon greets supporters after winning the socialist party presidential nomination in Paris, France, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017.

Socialists in France have chosen former junior minister Benoit Hamon as their candidate for president in a victory that analysts say is not likely to boost his election chances when French voters begin first-round balloting for a new president in April.

With the vote tally near completion, results from Sunday’s Socialist primary runoff showed Hamon holding near 59 percent of the vote, beating his centrist rival Manuel Valls, a former prime minister. Valls has conceded defeat.

"Our country needs the left but a modern, innovative left turned towards the future," the 49-year-old Hamon told cheering supporters in his victory speech.

Analysts give the Socialist party, weakened and divided by the widely unpopular presidency of Francois Hollande, little or no chance of moving past the first round of voting April 23. If no one wins 50 percent of that vote, the two top vote getters will face off for the presidency May 7.

Early polls shows Hamon trailing four others in opinion polls.

The Hamon candidacy and the apparent lack of enthusiasm for his party are expected to boost the chances of independent centrist Emmanuel Macron in a faceoff with leading rivals on the right and far-right.

Opinion polls show those rivals -- Conservative Francois Fillon, the Republican candidate, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen -- headed for a likely showdown in the May 7 election.

Fillon’s campaign has been in turmoil since Wednesday when a newspaper reported his wife had been paid more than a half-million dollars over eight years for a suspected fake job as a parliamentary aide.

Such allegations sparked a preliminary judicial inquiry, but there was even more bad news for Fillon Sunday.

Investigative website Mediapart and the Journal du Dimanche newspaper reported Fillon had used his parliamentary allowance to pocket tens of thousands of dollars while working as a senator from 2005-2007.