Benoit Hamon greets supporters after winning the Socialist Party presidential nomination in Paris, France, on Sunday.
Benoit Hamon greets supporters after winning the Socialist Party presidential nomination in Paris, France, on Sunday. Francois Mori

France gets a left candidate to challenge the right

A PARTIAL vote count has shown hard-left candidate Benoit Hamon has comfortably beaten his rival Manuel Valls to become the presidential candidate of France's ruling Socialist Party.

The count from 60% of voting stations shows Mr Hamon won 58% of Sunday's vote, with the centrist former Prime Minister Mr Valls trailing with 41%.

The win for Mr Hamon - who is in favour of a universal basic income, legalising marijuana, and renewable energy - is seen as a rejection of President Francois Hollande's course.

Mr Hollande was seen as pro-business and centre left and zig-zagged on some of the more left-wing proposals during the second half of his presidency. His 4% approval rate is a post-war record.

Mr Hamon resigned as education minister in August 2014 because he believed Mr Hollande had abandoned the socialist agenda of the party after reneging on certain campaign promises such as on income tax.

Speaking to supporters, Mr Hamon said he represented a left that could "hold its head high again” and "look to the future”.

He said: "I believe that faced with a conservative right that represents privilege; and a destructive extreme right; our country needs a left that thinks of the world as it is, and not as it was; a left that can bring a future people want.”

Frequently compared to Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the US, Mr Hamon is a representative of a new wave of populism that is sweeping the left as the party rejects its centre-left New Labour style policies of the past few years.

He was the most left-wing candidate out of the seven who ran for the party's nomination and experienced a surge in popularity after indicating he supported a repeal of a law making it easier to hire and fire French workers passed last year.

The election will be held on April 23. A run-off round may be needed on May 7.

The Independent, with additional reporting by agencies



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