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François Hollande ahead in Socialist Party run-off vote

François Hollande has a considerable lead in the French Socialist Party run-off vote, ahead of party chief Martine Aubry, according to partial results. The winner will face President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year's presidential election.

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AP - Partial results Sunday showed France's former Socialist Party chief Francois Hollande leading in nationwide voting for the main leftist candidate for next year's presidential election, an expected showdown with embattled conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The main opposition party held a primary runoff to choose its standard-bearer for the election, coming at a time when many French people worry about high state debt, cuts to spending on education, anemic economic growth and lingering unemployment.

With 911,000 votes counted after Sunday's voting, the Socialist Party said on its website that 56.5 percent ballots were for Hollande and 43.5 percent for Martine Aubry, the author of France's 35-hour work week.

Aubry is the current party chief; Hollande is her predecessor. The party estimates that more than 2.7 million people voted in the primary. Final results were expected later Sunday evening.

Hollande is seen as a party moderate who favors greater integration with Europe.

Recent polls suggest Aubry or Hollande could beat Sarkozy in the presidential election next spring if he runs as expected.

The incumbent's favorability ratings have hovered near the 30-percent level for months, but
he is a strong campaigner and senses a rightward-majority tilt in the French electorate.

Early this year, most polls showed that the Socialists' best hope for toppling Sarkozy was Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who led the International Monetary Fund until he was jailed in May in the United States on charges he tried to rape a New York hotel maid.

Prosecutors later dropped the case, but Strauss-Kahn's reputation and presidential ambitions came crashing down.

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