They have a week to convince left wing voters in France that they offer the best chance to unseat Nicolas Sarkozy.
After a first-round vote in the Socialist party’s presidential primary, Francois Hollande and Martine Aubry go through to a second round next Sunday.
Hollande said: “Let’s make it possible that on the night of the second round in a week’s time, that I am the candidate who will allow France to regain its confidence, confidence in its future. I am the candidate of change.”
But Aubry is equally determined to become France’s first female president in elections next year.
She said: “In the second round I will bring with me this deep change and will bring together all of those who really want to change our country. I believe I am well placed to make this happen. i will beat Mr Sarkozy in 2012.”
Hollande was eight points ahead of Aubry in the primary, and all eyes are now on who the unsuccessful candidates will back.
Close to two million people voted in the ballot, which was opened up to the general public for the first time.