- Title: French PM Valls makes presidential bid, quits government
- Date: 5th December 2016
- Summary: EVRY, FRANCE (DECEMBER 5, 2016) (AGENCY POOL) AUDIENCE APPLAUDING VALLS SHAKING HANDS WITH MEMBERS OF AUDIENCE
- Embargoed: 20th December 2016 19:14
- Keywords: Valls election voting presidential eletion 2017 France Hollande socialists primary
- Location: EVRY, FRANCE
- City: EVRY, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Reuters ID: LVA0095BM08CN
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS A WHITE FLASH
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT IS AN UPDATED EDIT FOR 1264-FRANCE-ELECTION/VALLS
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday (December 5) entered the race to be the Socialist candidate for next year's presidential election and said he was quitting the government to focus on campaigning.
Opinion polls bill 54-year-old Valls as favourite to win his party's nomination in late January primaries.
But the centrist with a business-friendly stance on economic policies combined with a reputation as a hard-liner on law and order will face stiff competition from party rivals.
In any case, opinion polls predict that no left-wing candidate is likely to gather enough support in the presidential election and that conservative Francois Fillon would eventually beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a two-way run-off.
"So yes, I am candidate for the presidency of the Republic," Valls said to applause.
France's left is deeply divided as it approaches the election and Valls will have to disentangle himself from French President Francois Hollande's five years at the helm of the euro zone's number two economy if he is to persuade voters he is the best candidate to heal the party's rifts.
"My candidacy is also a rebellion - I am, with all my heart, outraged at the idea that the Left could be disqualified from these presidentials. And this rebellion, I want to make it ours. I see the divisions on the Left, but for how long are we going to suffer this spectacle? That's a good reason to move forward," Valls said, referring to his camp's poor poll ratings and its divisions. "We must unite," Valls said, later adding: "My candidacy is one of conciliation, of reconciliation."
Valls had made no secret of his desire to seek the Socialist ticket and Hollande's decision not to run for a second mandate opened the way for him.
"To Francois Hollande, I want to say my emotion, my affection. His decision is one of a head of state, who places the common good above everything; it compels us all. I want to let him know the warmth of my feelings," he said.
Valls announced his resignation as prime minister, saying it would be effective on Tuesday (December 6).
The premier said fighting unemployment would be his priority and pledged to lower taxes for the poorest and for the middle-class, if elected. He also vowed to protect France's social security system.
He faces a tough fight for the centre-left nomination. Several other Socialists have said they will take part in the primary, including former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, a left-wing firebrand popular among the traditional left.
Some of the residents in Valls fiefdom of Evry, the gritty southern suburb of Paris where he was mayor for over a decade, were supportive over his decision to run.
"His choice is the best choice, the fact that he's decided to be candidate in the left's primaries. He will fight for his ideas, his position, he was prime minister, interior minister, he knows the country better than anyone else so he would be a good candidate for the presidential elections," finance worker Alexis Adia said.
"He started with this town, I don't think it's a coincidence that he chose here to announce this candidature so he can count on the way he managed his town. There's also the legacy as prime minister so, taking into account those two elements, it is now for him to present his project in the right way," 26-year-old teacher Brady Nguema said.
The failure of pollsters to forecast the outcome of the Les Republicains primary and the high number of undecided voters on the left mean the race is wide open.
In contrast to the left's divisions, the right has rallied behind Fillon, a 62-year-old former prime minister, who promises to slash public spending, cut half a million public sector jobs and overhaul social security.
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