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French Socialists Set to Drop Royal for Hollande in Primary Vote

Oct. 7 (Bloomberg) -- France’s opposition Socialists may cast out Segolene Royal, their 2007 presidential nominee, when they begin choosing a candidate to lead them against Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s election, a poll shows.

Two former party chiefs, Francois Hollande and Martine Aubry, lead before the first round of the primary on Oct. 9. They are trailed by Royal and challenged by lawmakers Manuel Valls, Arnaud Montebourg and Jean-Michel Baylet. A run-off between the two top finishers will be held a week later.

“At the beginning of the year people thought the Socialists were going to tear themselves apart and hurt their chances,” said Emmanuel Riviere, a pollster at TNS Sofres in Paris. “Instead it has energized them and drawn interest, putting Sarkozy on the back foot.”

Sarkozy, who has yet to declare his candidacy, would take 21 percent in the first round of the general election in April compared with 32 percent for Hollande. Aubry would beat him 29 percent to 22 percent, according to an Ipsos survey. Sarkozy would beat Royal 23 percent to 22 percent.

Paris-based Ipsos conducted the poll of 962 voters on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. It didn’t provide a margin of error.

Valls and Montebourg have drawn interest, with Valls emphasizing the urgency of deficit reduction and Montebourg appealing to voters who oppose globalization.

“There are two favorites and two challengers,” Riviere said. “Valls and Montebourg have clearly had an impact, marking their territory and gaining recognition.”

Open Vote

The vote will be held nationwide and every French voter will be able to participate to the ballot, paying one euro to the Socialist Party. It’s the first time the party is holding a primary open to non-members, making it difficult to determine the size and nature of the voting pool.

Socialist candidates signed a common platform in April, dubbed ”The Change,” that included the creation of a public investment bank, the construction of 150,000 public-housing units, changes in taxes on companies, legalization of same-sex marriage and adoption, and cutting the budget deficit to below 3 percent of gross domestic product by the end of 2013. The chosen candidate will be able to change the platform.

Aubry has called for an end to reliance on nuclear power, which generates about 75 percent of electricity in France. She also said she would restore the retirement age to 60, down from 62 as implemented by Sarkozy.

Hollande has called for the accelerated withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. Sarkozy has called for full withdrawal by 2014. He said he would revise the stock options rules for companies and the tax code for individuals and companies.

Montebourg and Royal pledged to “put banks under the guardianship” of the state if elected. Valls said he would raise the value-added tax by one percentage point, ”except for essential goods.”

France will hold the first round of the presidential election on April 22 and the second and final round on May 6.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net; Mark Deen in Paris at markdeen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

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