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Benoît Hamon takes lead in France’s Socialist primary

French socialist outsider Benoît Hamon gained new ground in the leftwing presidential primaries on Thursday, winning the final debate before Sunday’s first-round vote in one poll

23 January 2017, 8:39am
Former education minister Benoît Hamon cast his ballot in Sunday’s Socialist primary in Trappes, southwest of Paris
Former education minister Benoît Hamon cast his ballot in Sunday’s Socialist primary in Trappes, southwest of Paris
Benoît Hamon, the staunchly leftwing outsider who wants to introduce a universal basic income, legalise cannabis and tax robots has topped the poll in the first round of the French Socialist primary race to choose a presidential candidate.

Hamon, the most leftwing of all the candidates in the race, took about 35% of the vote, and will face the pro-business former Prime Minister Manuel Valls in a final-round clash between the party’s warring leftwing and free-market factions.

Valls, an economically liberal, self-styled law and order strongman on the right of the party, took about 31%, according to partial early results.

Hamon said his score “sent a clear message of hope and renewal” and that he could “rewrite a page of the history of the left and of France”. He said it was an end to old approaches that no longer worked on the left. 

Valls immediately attacked Hamon as an idealist who couldn’t win the presidential election and styled himself as the voice of the serious left in government. “There is now a very clear choice between certain defeat and possible victory, between unachievable promises and a credible left that takes responsibility,” he said.

Hamon, 49, who served as education minister, was ejected from the government in 2014 after opposing Hollande and Valls’s pro-business economic policy.

The resurging divisions between leftists and reformists in the Socialist Party helped to dampen turnout in the primary. Between 1.5 million and 2 million people voted in the first round on Sunday, compared with 4.3 million in the first round of the center-right primary in November.