FT - French leftwinger Benoît Hamon won the Socialist nomination on Sunday, in a landslide victory that marks a clear shift to the left for the deeply divided party three months before presidential elections.
Mr Hamon, a former education minister, attracted 58.7 per cent of the vote in the primary run-off, against Manuel Valls, the former prime minister, who secured 41.3 per cent. A little more than 2m turned out to vote on Sunday
Mr Hamon’s nomination highlights a desire among French Socialists to return to core leftwing policies after François Hollande’s unpopular presidency. By electing a candidate who campaigned against the government’s record, primary voters sought to turn their back on the business-friendly reforms implemented by the Socialist president, who last month ruled out running for re-election.
"The left is holding its head high again,” Mr Hamon told supporters on Sunday. "I want to unite the French around a desirable future.”
Mr Hamon, whose proposals include a 32-hour working week, a basic universal income and a tax on artificial intelligence and robots, left Mr Valls’ government in 2014 because he disagreed with its supply-side policies. He then led a rebellion in parliament against the government’s jobs bill.
Mr Hamon’s flagship policy is the introduction of a monthly income of about €750, a measure that would cost €400bn a year. He supports increased public spending and a widening of the deficit to invest in renewable energies.
With polls suggesting likely defeat in the first round of presidential elections on 23 April, Mr Hamon will have to mollify the business-friendly wing of the Socialist party — embodied by Mr Valls — which sought to rid the party of its Marxist influence and prove its fitness to govern by embracing globalisation and the need for budget discipline.
But political analysts believe that will prove difficult given the party’s deep divisions. Many among Mr Valls’ supporters are now expected to rally around Emmanuel Macron, the former economy minister who is running as an independent at the head of his centrist En Marche! party
"I wish good luck to [Benoit] for the battle ahead,” Mr Valls said.
Mr Macron, a social-democrat who shares many views on the economy with Mr Valls, is seen by analysts as most likely to benefit from Mr Hamon’s nomination. His campaign for the centre-ground has seen a surge in support, taking him to third place in the presidential polls behind Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, and François Fillon of the centre-right, who are expected to face each other in a run-off on 7 May.
A survey by Kantar Sofres released on Sunday placed Mr Fillon and Mr Macron neck and neck in the first round, on 22 per cent and 21 per cent of respectively. Ms Le Pen is projected to secure 25 per cent of the vote.
Mr Hamon is projected to come in fourth, with 15 per cent of the votes, ahead of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left leader. Mr Hamon said on Sunday that he would seek an alliance with Mr Melenchon, who is predicted to attract about 10 per cent of the votes.