Benoît Hamon, riding to victory from left-wing obscurity on a radical proposal to pay all adults a monthly basic income, will be the Socialist Party candidate in France’s presidential election after handily beating ex-prime minister Manuel Valls in a primary runoff vote on Sunday.
Hamon’s win sends the divided Socialists, weakened by the chronic unpopularity of outgoing President François Hollande, into a tough presidential battle behind a candidate with limited government experience and hard-left politics that could alienate some centre-left Socialist voters.
With ballots counted at 60 per cent of polling stations, Hamon had almost 59 per cent of the vote to Valls’ 41 per cent. Valls immediately conceded defeat in the face of the result that appeared like a clear sanction of both his and Hollande’s polices.
With the ruling party having settled on its candidate, the race for the presidential Élysée Palace begins in earnest, although the outcome of the two-round general election vote in April and May looks increasingly uncertain.
Scandal plagues conservative’s candidate’s wife
Leading conservative candidate François Fillon, who also previously served as prime minister, was rocked during the past week by allegations that his wife, Penelope, held a fake but handsomely paid job as a parliamentary aide. Financial prosecutors are investigating.
François Fillon, former French prime minister and leading conservative presidential candidate, has been bogged down by a scandal involving wife Penelope. (Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)
At a campaign rally in Paris on Sunday — where a boisterous crowd gave Penelope Fillon a standing ovation and chanted her name, Fillon said, “We have nothing to hide.”
“Through Penelope they are trying to break me,” he said. “I will never forgive those who chose to throw us to the wolves.”
Wounded Socialist party
A priority for Hamon, a 49-year-old former junior minister and, briefly, education minister, will be to rally the Socialists, split ideologically and wounded by Hollande’s five-year tenure as president.
The party is also squeezed by rivals on both flanks. Fiery far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon and centrist Emmanuel Macron, Hollande’s former economics minister, are both making hay by appealing to disappointed Socialist voters.
Early polling has suggested the Socialist candidate will struggle to advance to the presidential runoff in May, where far-right leader Marine Le Pen could be waiting, campaigning on anti-Europe, anti-immigration and anti-Islam themes.
Supporters of Benoît Hamon, left, cheer after partial results in the second round of the French left’s presidential primary election come in. Hamon won the vote and is now tasked with bringing together a wounded and divided Socialist party. (Christian Hartmann/Reuters)
Basic income: New life for an old idea