Voters in France are choosing between two Socialist candidates at the opposite ends of the leftist spectrum in Sunday's poll. But the winner will have a tough fight before him at presidential elections this spring.
Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (right in above photo) and hardline leftist Benoit Hamon (left) on Sunday faced off in a primary runoff that will determine who will run as Socialist candidate in France's presidential elections in a few months' time.
The two candidates represent opposite poles within the Socialist party, with Valls taking a pro-business stance, and Hamon, a former education minister, campaigning on staunchly leftist proposals, including instituting a universal basic income and legalizing marijuana.
Valls, 54, has been particularly scathing about the first of these suggestions by Hamon, telling an earlier campaign rally: "I want nothing of these mirages that evaporate in an instant and that sow disillusionment (and) bitterness."
He has also emphasized his experience as someone who was premier of France for two-and-a-half years.
However, Valls' tendency as prime minister to use decrees to push through disputed economic reforms and his proposal - which failed - to strip dual-national terrorists of their French citizenship estranged many in the Socialist party.
Little chance either way
The 49-year-old Hamon, a surprise winner in the primary's first round last weekend, was one of those party members who rebelled against what he saw as a drift to the right under Valls and President Francois Hollande, stepping down as education minister in 2014.
Valls has said that Socialist voters can chose between "certain defeat" with Hamon - whom he calls a "dreamer" - and "possible victory" if he himself is picked.
But polls in fact give the Socialist candidate, whoever he turns out to be, little chance at all in the presidential election, the first round of which is to be held on April 23.
Pundits have so far largely predicted that the conservative candidate, Francois Fillon, will likely emerge as one of two victors from the first round along with far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, whom he would then face in the runoff on May 7.
It remains to be seen, however, whether former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron might not improve his rapidly rising popularity figures still further to pose serious competition to the current favorites.
Polls in Sunday's primary runoff are due to close at 1800 UTC.
tj/rc (AP, AFP)