- Title: Hollande keeps French left in dark as presidential primary opens
- Date: 1st December 2016
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF HOLLANDE STANDING ON STEPS OF ELYSEE PALACE
- Embargoed: 16th December 2016 12:36
- Keywords: France election Hollande presidential primary left
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE
- City: PARIS, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Reuters ID: LVA0055B1YUKN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A divided French left hoped to boost its election hopes with a presidential primary which began on Thursday (December 1), as a question mark hung over the possible candidacy of highly unpopular President Francois Hollande.
After conservative nominee Francois Fillon was selected in triumph by a resurgent right at its primary on Sunday, for the moment the left's votes look likely to scatter over a number of candidates and polls show it unlikely any of them will reach the second round of next spring's election.
Ex-Hollande minister Arnaud Montebourg officially announced his candidacy on Thursday, saying the primary offered the left the chance to throw its weight behind one candidate.
"It's an important day because it's the first in the process of uniting all of the French lefts which for now are divided and I would like to unify all of them by using the primary as the number one unifier. The more people on the left participate en masse, the more the chosen candidate will have the power to unite people around him," he said as he arrived for an economic forum on Thursday.
But the Socialists will have to contend with a slew of candidates on the left of French politics who have said they will bypass the primary process and run for the presidency anyway, threatening to split the vote and leave Fillon and the far right's Marine Le Pen to take the two spots in May's knockout second round.
Socialist Gerard Filoche is one of the candidates who says he will run in the primary, and hopes that far left and green party candidates will ultimately back the winner.
"If I was chosen on January 29 -- that's what I'm fighting for -- I'd pick up my phone the next day and I'd call (far left candidate) Jean-Luc Melenchon, I'd call (green candidate) Yannick Jadot and I'd say 'There are two too many here, we need to talk to each other about how we pick one candidate'," he said.
The centre ground is starting to look crowded with the candidacy of another former Hollande minister Emmanuel Macron who has also decided to run outside the primary and who polls show could come third in the race for the presidency.
Now all eyes are on Hollande who is expected to make an announcement in the coming days about whether or not he will run.
With recent polls showing his approval ratings in single figures, he too looks likely to be beaten by Fillon and Le Pen.
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