Rivals have lashed out at ex-premier Manuel Valls' candidacy, describing his policies as "pro-market and authoritarian." The candidates have called for large-scale mobilization to "unite the left" before the election.
Seven candidates have been chosen to run in France's left-wing primaries in January in a bid to win the nomination for next year's presidential election, organizers said on Saturday.
Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls (pictured above) is seen as the leading contender for the Socialist Party-sponsored primaries after President Francois Hollande announced he would not run for a second term.
However, many in the Socialist Party's support base believe Valls betrayed their left-wing ideals when Hollande's government shifted to a pro-business policy in the mid-term, viewed as a ploy to undermine labor rights in France.
France's former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg, considered Valls' most serious Socialist challenger, has been critical of Hollande's ex-premier, saying his policies are "pro-market and authoritarian."
'Unite the left'
Montebourg has pledged to invigorate the French economy through state intervention and protectionist measures.
"The French will be listening carefully to the debate in January," Montebourg said. "We need the mobilization (of voters) to be as large as possible, because it is the only way to unite the left."
Benoit Hamon, a former education minister, has presented a platform further left of Valls' centrist policies. Meanwhile, another former education minister, Vincent Peillon, has presented himself as the candidate of "unity," and carries a less divisive reputation than Valls.
The other candidates include the Radical Party of the Left's Sylvia Pinel, the Democratic Movement party's Jean-Luc Bennahmias and the Greens' Francois de Rugy.
Any French citizen who pays 1 euro and signs a declaration that it shares the values of the left may participate in the primaries.
Polls show that the two-round presidential elections slated for April and May will put conservative Francois Fillon against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
ls/kl (Reuters, dpa, AP)