Aubry, Hollande Face Off in French Primary Contest

Former party boss François Hollande faces his successor, Martine Aubry, in the presidential primary.

Former Socialist Party boss François Hollande and his immediate successor, Martine Aubry, emerged as the frontrunners from a left-wing primary election in France on Sunday.

Hollande, perceived as the most moderate of opposition candidates to run against incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy next year, won 39 percent of the vote, the Parti socialiste reported, after four-fifths of the two and a half million votes cast had been counted. Aubry gathered 31 percent. Because none of the candidates in the race won an outright majority, a runoff is scheduled for October 16.

Remarkable was the third place finish of Arnaud Montebourg, a far-left contender who rallies against capitalism and globalization. If Aubry captured his 17 percent share of the party vote, next week’s runoff could be a close one.

Montebourg hasn’t endorsed either of the two frontrunners yet.

Nationwide, Hollande is the favorite. Opinion polls give him roughly 60 percent of the vote among Frenchmen of all political persuasions. Sarkozy’s popularity hasn’t managed to recover despite French success in Libya where the conservative president pushed for a NATO intervention and despite a deficit reduction effort that is largely composed of tax hikes.

Sakozy has proposed that the European 3 percent of GDP deficit maximum be enshrined in the French constitution. Hollande is opposed to the notion but does campaign on a platform of fiscal consolidation. During the left’s first presidential primary debate in September, he vowed that he would not “be president to push us back into debt.”

His campaign hasn’t laid out specific proposals for deficit reduction but Hollande promises to bring down the shortfall to under 3 percent of gross domestic product during his first year in office.