Hol­lande, Valls should con­test So­cial­ist ticket, says Bar­tolone So­cial­ist pri­maries due to take place in Jan­uary

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande and Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls should con­test a So­cial­ist pri­mary elec­tion to pick the party’s can­di­date for next year’s pres­i­den­tial race, a lead­ing So­cial­ist said yes­ter­day. The com­ments from Claude Bar­tolone, who heads France’s Na­tional Assem­bly lower house of par­lia­ment, con­trast with mes­sages from the Valls camp in past months which have said he would not fight Hol­lande for the So­cial­ist ticket and would only stand if his boss did not.

Hol­lande’s pop­u­lar­ity rat­ings are low. They fell to four per­cent in one opin­ion poll, and spec­u­la­tion over whether the un­pop­u­lar leader will run or not is cen­tre-stage as the op­po­si­tion cen­treright’s own pres­i­den­tial pri­mary con­test reaches its cli­max this week­end.

Valls has mean­while been giv­ing in­ter­views and mak­ing prom­i­nent speeches on a wide range of sub­jects, in­creas­ing spec­u­la­tion that he is pre­par­ing for a shot at next year’s April pres­i­den­tial race. The cen­tre-right Les Repub­li­cains party will choose its can­di­date on Sun­day, with for­mer prime min­is­ter Fran­cois Fil­lon in pole po­si­tion. The So­cial­ist pri­maries take place in Jan­uary.

Bar­tolone said he wanted as many can­di­dates as pos­si­ble in the So­cial­ist party race. He urged Hol­lande, Valls and for­mer econ­omy min­is­ter Em­manuel Macron to all stand, say­ing the party would ben­e­fit from a large field of can­di­dates. Macron is stand­ing any­way as an in­de­pen­dent. “I want Valls to stand in the pri­maries, and I want Hol­lande to stand in the pri­maries,” Bar­tolone told re­porters as he ar­rived at a left-wing po­lit­i­cal gath­er­ing north of Paris.

“I would pre­fer it if they both stood in the pri­maries, rather than one of them say ‘That’s it, I’m out, so I’m mov­ing away from the cam­paign, I’m mov­ing away from the So­cial­ists, I’m mov­ing away from what the govern­ment is do­ing’,” he added.

The So­cial­ist pri­maries battle has ex­posed di­vi­sions in the party, with some urg­ing Hol­lande not to stand while oth­ers have been more cir­cum­spect. Hol­lande, who is ex­pected to say near the end of the first week of De­cem­ber if he in­tends to run for re-elec­tion, got a boost this week when data showed France’s job­less to­tal had eased back slightly in Oc­to­ber to a two-year low.

How­ever, the French econ­omy re­mains slug­gish and at­tacks by Is­lamist mil­i­tants, in­clud­ing one in Paris in Novem­ber 2015 that killed 130 peo­ple, have also dam­aged Hol­lande’s rat­ings.

Cur­rent opin­ion polls show any So­cial­ist can­di­date would get knocked out of the first round in next year’s elec­tion, with the Les Repub­li­cains can­di­date seen as likely to beat the far-right Front Na­tional in the fi­nal vote. But polls have been get­ting it wrong this year. Af­ter Bri­tain’s ref­er­en­dum de­ci­sion to exit the Euro­pean Union and the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump as U.S. pres­i­dent, Fil­lon coun­founded the polls with a thump­ing win in the first round of the Les Repub­li­cains party pri­maries. — Reuters

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