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    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls attends a news conference during an Interministerial Committee on Disability, in Nancy, France, December 2, 2016.

    French Socialists Pin Hopes on Centrist PM Manuel Valls for Presidency

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    The French Socialist Party was spared the unheard-of proposition of an incumbent president and prime minister both running for election as the candidate for the French presidency 2017 when Francois Hollande stood down, December 1.

    Until that point, the Socialists looked unlikely to make any impact on the race for presidency, owing to the massive unpopularity of Hollande — the worst personal poll ratings in the history of the Fifth Republic — as deep resentment over his failure to turn round the economy.

    His prime minister, Manuel Valls, had hinted that he might stand for the presidential candidacy in the Socialists primaries, January 2017, which would have meant Hollande outing himself forward in a contest against his own PM — a political taboo.

    In the end, Hollande stood aside and Valls is set, Monday (December 5) to officially stand, with the latest Ifop poll for newspaper Journal du Dimanche showing 45 percent backing his stance, against 25 percent for the left-winger and former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg.

    Valls climbed steadily up the Socialists ladder, after becoming a member at the age of 17, working his way up through the ranks to become head of the Socialist Party in Argenteuil-Bezons, in the Île-de-France region, which includes Paris. After spells as Secretary of Communications for the national Socialist Party and other responsibilities for communications and media relations for the Prime Minister's Cabinet, in 1998, he was elected vice president of the regional Council for the Île-de-France.

    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls speaks during the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, July 6, 2016
    © REUTERS / Regis Duvignau
    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls speaks during the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, July 6, 2016

    He stood against Hollande in the 2012 primaries for the presidency, lost and then endorsed Hollande, who eventually rewarded him by appointing him prime minister. Few doubted Valls was always a potential candidate for the presidency.

    ​[Twitter: "The decision of President Hollande is that of a statesman. A carefully considered choice. A choice that begs respect through his dignity."]

    'Rather Right-Wing'

    Gino Raymond, Professor of Modern French Studies at the University of Bristol, UK, told Sputnik that — following the pullout of Hollande — Valls' path is clear for the Socialists primary.

    "He will be a rallying point for people in the party. The difficulty for Valls is that many people in the Socialists party — certainly the traditional socialists — see him as rather a right-wing kind of socialist. He was very tough on security, very tough on Laïcité —secularism."

    People boo French prime minister Manuel Valls, center, and Health Minister Marisol Touraine, left, after a minute of silence on the famed Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southern France, to honor the victims of an attack near the area where a truck mowed through revelers, Monday, July 18, 2016.
    © AP Photo / Francois Mori
    People boo French prime minister Manuel Valls, center, and Health Minister Marisol Touraine, left, after a minute of silence on the famed Promenade des Anglais in Nice, southern France, to honor the victims of an attack near the area where a truck mowed through revelers, Monday, July 18, 2016.

    "He made some very tough statements about the need for integration. So there will be some difficulty, I think, for members of the Socialist party to rally round him," Raymond told Sputnik.

    Valls was due to announce his stand for the presidency Monday afternoon (December 5), standing down as prime minister the following day, leaving a vacancy potentially for interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve or finance minister Michel Sapin to fill.

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    Tags:
    French 2017 election, presidency, election, French Socialist Party, Manuel Valls, Francois Hollande, France
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