French Socialist Chief Calls for Primary Before 2017 Election

  • Hollande popularity slump puts his candidacy into question
  • Socialist head seeks primary for greens, socialists, allies

The head of France’s Socialist Party said he favors a primary ballot ahead of the 2017 presidential vote, a move that would make Francois Hollandethe first sitting French president to face a contest before embarking on a bid for a second mandate. 

Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said he’s open to a primary vote, calling on candidates from all the left-leaning parties, including the communists, the green party and Hollande’s own socialists, to participate.

Jean-Christophe Cambadelis

Photographer: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

“It’s the perimeter that matters,” Cambadelis told RMC radioThursday. “A primary that would cover the entire left-wing spectrum is starting to impose itself. If there were a primary, it would apply to the president. ”

The remarks underline growing concern in France’s governing party that Hollande will be ejected from the 2017 presidential vote in the first round, leaving its supporters with a choice between candidates of the opposition party, The Republicans, and the right-wing, anti-euro National Front in a run-off vote.

Labor Split

The Socialist Party chief said also he may not vote the government’s bill to reform of labor rules in its current form. His open critique follows Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri’s pledge in Les Echos daily Thursday to push the bill through parliament even if it doesn’t get majority support.

Hollande’s personal popularity is sagging in the face of unemployment stuck at an 18-year high and a backlash over a constitutional change that would allow the state to strip dual-nationals of their French nationality.

The president’s approval rating has dropped by 20 points in the past two months to 15 percent, according to a poll by TNS Sofres taken between Jan. 28 and Feb. 1. In 2014, his rating fell to 13 percent, the lowest on record for any French president, before picking up following the terror attacks that hit Paris last year.

Right Moment

So far, Hollande has avoided stating his intentions. Asked about the need for a primary in a television interview a week ago, he said he’s focused on the task of being president.

“One can’t be a candidate for the sake of being a candidate,” Hollande said. “I will take the decision at the right moment. But that moment hasn’t come.”

He added that he has a set of conditions for seeking a second term and they include achieving a decline in unemployment.

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