France will go to the polls this weekend to kick off the search for a leftist candidate, amid widespread distrust of the Socialist president Francois Hollande. Saskia O'Donoghue reports.
France's divided Left will narrow its search for their presidential candidate this weekend but whoever emerges victorious will struggle to head off humiliation in the upcoming election. Voters go to the polls in a primary on Sunday: the first round of voting to decide the Left's standard-bearer. In a debate Thursday, former Education Minister Benoit Hamon was seen to have won with previous front runner, ex-Prime Minster Manuel Valls coming in only third. He must deal with President Francois Hollande's legacy, whose ratings plummeted with his failure to turn the economy around. Polls suggest a near-certainty that no one from the Left will get beyond the first round in April's general election. The campaign focus for all candidates is likely to be France's moderate leftwing voters, a vast electorate spanning factory and office workers, shopkeepers and Paris professional elites. Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, who's trying to offer an alternative to the classic Left-Right divide, is rising fast, opinion polls show. But it will be harder for Macron to corral the centre vote if Manuel Vals does manage to secure the nomination. Regardless of the outcome on the Left, France is desperate for change and it's likely that Conservative Francois Fillon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen will meet in the knockout for the presidency on May 7.