The countdown to find a successor to French President Jacques Chirac has begun with today’s announcement from Conservative front runner Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, fixing the dates for next year’s election. Another potential candidate for the UMP, Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, has not yet said whether she intends to run.
The first round of the presidential race will take place on April 22 with a possible run-off on May 6. Then two rounds of voting for a new parliament will be held in June.
Tonight the Socialist hopefuls hold a second televised debate. Segolene Royal is favourite to win the party’s nomination when members vote in November.
Former Finance Minister Dominque Strauss-Kahn and ex Prime Minister Laurent Fabius are also in the running, although polls put them some way behind the woman some say could be France’s first female head of state.