In running against Nicolas Sarkozy next May, the French Socialists are determined to put their best foot forward to contest the presidency in next year’s election. Six of them want a shot at the Elysee Palace.
Officially, each has the same programme and they all share common ideals. Individually, they have their own ideas and style. To stand a chance of winning France’s highest office the party must minimise internal disorder. On Thursday their first televised debate broke viewer records.
US-style primaries have never been held in France before, with all the country’s voters entitled to pick the Socialist contender.
There is Arnaud Montebourg, age 48, in parliament and president of his local council; Manuel Valls, 49, of Spanish origin, is a mayor and MP; Ségolène Royal, 57, a former minister, ran against Sarkozy in 2007; her ex-husband François Hollande, same age, is also an MP and local council president; Martine Aubry, 61, a former minister, has headed her party since 2008; 64-year-old Jean Michel Baylet is a senator and a local council president.
Any French voter can cast a ballot for one of the above, and not just card-carrying party members, by paying one euro, to help defray costs, and signing a charter of the left’s values. Round one is to be on October 9, round two a week later, all over France. That first round will produce two contestants for the candidacy, the second to decide on one of them.
The campaigns are expected to get personal and rigorous. Barring surprises, Aubry and Hollande are tipped to be the choice of most on the ninth. Hollande led the party for a long time but stayed on the sidelines in 2007. He is the favourite now, in the wake of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s withdrawal from the race to dethrone Sarkozy.