- Title: Former French PM Valls sets out presidential stall as primary heats up
- Date: 3rd January 2017
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (FILE - DECEMBER 1, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF CANDIDATE FOR LEFT'S NOMINATION FOR FRENCH PRESIDENCY, ARNAUD MONTEBOURG, BEFORE ATTENDING MEETING
- Embargoed: 18th January 2017 13:37
- Keywords: France election Socialists Valls Peillon Montebourg Hamon Hollande primary
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE
- City: PARIS, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA0045XJ0Y87
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls set out his presidential stall on Tuesday (January 3) hoping to see off challengers on his left as an intense campaign to secure the Socialists' nomination for the presidency got under way.
For two and a half years, Valls headed up the government of deeply unpopular President Francois Hollande and now says he will defend its record, one repeatedly attacked as too economically liberal by his more left wing opponents.
"I accept, I completely accept what has been undertaken since 2012 with the president, with Francois Hollande, that's what responsibility means to me. But I also demand the right to be inventive, freely, because I am a candidate for the presidency. I am not coming to propose the past, but to defend a path to the future," he told supporters and journalists at a launch in Paris.
He promised to avoid draconian public spending cuts planned by his front-running conservative opponent and proposed an overhaul of France's welfare system that would provide substantial monthly handouts to many jobless people without requiring them to prove they are actively seeking work.
"I reject the vast purge that (conservative presidential candidate) Francois Fillon is preparing for us, a drastic reduction in the number of public sector workers, and so fewer public services," he said.
Fillon has proposed 100 billion euros of spending cuts and 500,000 public sector job cuts.
Valls benefits from substantial support from members of parliament and is tipped to secure the Socialist ticket when the final vote is held on January 29.
But fellow former ministers have lined up to stop him, including Vincent Peillon - in charge of the education brief in Hollande's first government - who held a rival manifesto launch across town on Tuesday, saying he hoped to unite his competitors.
"I think that we (the candidates) have respectable differences. Of course I respect the approach of Benoit Hamon, the approach of Arnaud Montebourg, the approach of the others who we don't talk about much but who most probably deserve to be heard, and what I want is to be able to unite them when the time comes," Peillon said.
For Peillon's supporters including MEP Pervenche Beres, Valls is tainted by his time as prime minister.
"I believe that Manuel Valls has been the prime minister in a second half of this five year mandate and he has governed in a position that might not be the best one to allow all Socialists to join their force together to be a strong weight in this presidential election," she told Reuters TV.
Rival candidates including Arnaud Montebourg have made much of their differences with the government's more controversial reforms, including to France's labour law to make it easier for companies to hire a fire, a move which prompted angry street protests in 2015.
"Labour law is not the cause of unemployment, the cause of unemployment, and what makes it worse, is austerity, the decisions we ourselves took, which I contested, which led to my split with the president and the prime minister, my disagreement and my departure from the government," Montebourg said.
Montebourg left the government in 2014, accompanied by other leftists like former education minister turned primary candidate Benoit Hamon.
Polls suggest that Valls or any Socialist candidate will be knocked out of the presidential contest in favour of the right's Francois Fillon and the far right's Marine Le Pen in the first round of a two-round ballot.
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