The first round of France’s Left primary kicked off on Sunday morning with pollsters believed the competition to be a three-horse race among former prime minister Manuel Valls and his main rivals Arnaund Montebourg and Benoit Hamon, both former ministers in his government in 2014.
About 2 million voters are expected to cast their ballots in 7,530 poll stations across the country from 9:00 to 19:00 local time (0800-1800 GMT) to pick a presidential nominee, who they believe strong enough to be able to get the winds back to the weakened Socialist Party and unite ranks of the divided broader Left parties.
Valls, a centrist politician, who is seeking to attract middle ground voters, has been the polls’ favourite to snatch the left ticket. However, the race is tightening in its final days.
Montebourg and Hamon who quit the government to protest their pro-liberal policy, are gaining momentum days before the vote.
The three leading candidates are almost neck-and-neck with the result remains unpredictable.
A recent BVA-Salesforce poll showed Valls coming the first in the first round with 32 percent of the vote against Hamon’s 27 percent and Montebourg’s 26 percent.
Two out of the seven contenders who will garner the highest vote in the first round will meet in a head-to-head context next Sunday.
However, the former prime minister is predicted to lose in the second round to whether Montebourg or Hamon, both are expected to garner 52 percent of the vote against Valls’ 48 percent.
Casting his ballot in Every, southeastern Paris, Valls called on the French to massively turn to poll stations. “It is the French who must decide,” said the former prime minister.
Montebourg, a former economy minister, said before casting his ballot that “I asked for a strong mandate to be able to bring the Left together. I’m committed and confident.”
Hamon, who’s gaining momentum unexpectedly, also called for a high turnout of voters, saying “if the turnout is high, it will give legitimacy to the one who will be elected.”
Seven candidates are now competing for the left nomination with four from the ruling Socialist Party including the three front-runners and Vincent Peillon, former education minister.
Two ecologists Francois de Rugy, vice president of the National Assembly and Jean-Luc Bennahmias, president of Democratic Movement appeared in the list of contenders. Former housing minister Sylvia Pinel is the only female candidate in the contest.
The Socialists and the broader Left, which has dominated France’s political landscape for decades, was weakened due to high unemployment and rising security concerns in the five years in power.
It’s no easy task for the Left to build enough momentum over the right-wing and the far right party.
And according to the prediction by the country’s pollsters, no left-wing candidate will pass to presidential run-off on May 7 after French President Francois Hollande’s policies had alienated left voters. Enditem