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France

Socialist candidate Hamon slams Valls defection as ‘blow to democracy’

© Manuel Valls (AFP file photo) and Benoît Hamon (Thomas Samson, AFP)

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-03-29

Former PM Manuel Valls said Wednesday that he would break ranks with the Socialist Party to support centrist Emmanuel Macron in the April 23 presidential vote, prompting Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon to accuse him of dealing a “blow” to democracy.

Valls’ pledge to support Macron instead of his fellow Socialist is “another large blow” to French democracy, Hamon said, calling on leftist voters to punish Valls for his defection.

Hamon also called on far-left independent candidate Jean-Luc Mélanchon to rally behind his candidacy in a bid to unite the left.

Valls said Wednesday that he would vote for Macron because he is the candidate best placed to defeat far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen. Opinion polls show both Macron and Le Pen advancing to the May 7 second round and predict an eventual victory for Macron, while Socialist Hamon appears headed for elimination in the first round with a fifth-place showing.

“I think we must take no risk for the Republic,” Valls told BFM TV. “I will vote for Emmanuel Macron.”

Valls is the most high-profile Socialist to turn his back on the party’s candidate in favour of the centrist newcomer but is by no means the first. Some 50 Socialist lawmakers have said they will support Macron’s En Marche! (Onwards!) movement.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, another Socialist party heavyweight, announced last week that he would support Macron.

“I respect Benoît Hamon’s logic, which has always existed on the Left – a utopian project. But it’s clear that implementing such a project does not correspond to reality and an ability to act,” Le Drian said.

Hamon has called such defections “betrayals” and said he draws his strength instead from the voters who chose him to be the Socialist Party candidate in the party’s January primary.

“Those who join Emmanuel Macron and are stabbing me in the back are not those who gave me life ... two million voters [did that],” Hamon told France 2 television on Sunday.

Infighting

Hamon is struggling after adopting a hard-left programme that alienated his more moderate colleagues. Macron is more palatable to party centrists who see Hamon’s policies as outdated.

“The future is very uncertain. The Socialist Party must negotiate its transformation for its survival,” Adelaide Zulfikarpasic from pollster BVA told AFP news agency.

Valls lost to Hamon in the primaries and there is no love lost between the two men; Hamon, a former education minister, signed a motion of no-confidence against Valls' government last year.

Some Socialist lawmakers are now saying in private that their aim is to limit the damage from the presidential vote and build a foundation for winning legislative elections in June.

The Socialists saw stinging defeats in recent local elections and party membership has almost halved since 2012. President François Hollande became the first post-war French president not to seek re-election amid plummeting aprroval ratings.

If Macron’s candidacy were to fall flat, it would be unclear what would happen to the centre-left at a time when France’s far-right is increasingly radicalised. The centre-right candidate, François Fillon, has been plagued by a nepotism scandal over fake jobs that means he is also not likely to reach the May 7 run-off.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

Date created : 2017-03-29

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