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Greens to boycott French Socialist presidential primary, left rebels may stand

Socialist left-wing rebel Arnaud Montebourg in May
Socialist left-wing rebel Arnaud Montebourg in May AFP
3 min

France's Green Party will not take part in a primary organised by the ruling Socialist Party to choose a left-wing candidate for the 2017 presidential election. But former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, who quit the government over its economic policy, said Monday that he may do and another Socialist left-winger confirmed that she would stand as an alternative to incumbent President François Hollande.

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After several months of dithering over whether a sitting president should have to face a primary, the Socialist Party this weekend declared it would hold one.

But, while the contest would in theory be to choose a candidate for the united left, the Communist Party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon's Left Party and at least two Trotskyist groups had already declared they would not take part.

Now David Cormand of the Green Party EELV has confirmed that his party hopes to stand an ecologist candidate, either one of its members or a sympathiser, such as TV personality and campaigner Nicolas Hulot.

EELV ministers Cécile Duflot and Pascal Canfin quit the cabinet when Manuel Valls became prime minister and the party has criticised his government from the left.

But several leading members have split, some forming a new party more sympathetic to Valls and Hollande.

The Socialists' primary will therefore have to find candidate from the ruling party itself, pro-government Greens or the small Left Radical party.

Left-wingers to challenge Hollande

One Socialist left-winger Marie-Noëlle Lieneman on Monday confirmed that she intends to stand.

"I said so a long while before Saturday," she told RFI.

And former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, who resigned from the government over its economic policy, said that the idea he might stand was "perfectly plausible", on condition that it involves "citizens" and not just "people who support the government".

If that was the case, he would "make use of my freedom", he added, leaving open the possibility that he could stand independently of the party.

That would mean standing against Hollande, whom, he repeated, he regrets having supported in 2012 after failing to win the party nomination himself in the 2011 Socialist primary.

Valls defended the idea of a primary on Sunday, replying to right-wing criticism that subjecting a sitting president to reselection was disrespectful to the institution of the presidency.

Apparently forgetting that parties in the US have had primaries for many years, the prime minister tweeted, "The Socialist Party invented the primary, everyone imitated it. It is inventing the primary for a sitting president, everyone will imitate it."

Right-wing candidate may dodge primary

On the right, former foreign affairs, defence and interior minister Michèle Alliot-Marie declared that she would stand in 2017 on Monday.

While refusing to rule out standing in the primary for the mainstream right Republicans and its allies in November, Alliot-Marie hinted that she might not bother, dismissing people who "stand in the primary to get their names known or to negotiate a ministerial position".

Her allies complain that some of the other 12 candidates have access to party membership lists and that former president Nicolas Sarkozy, now the party leader, uses the party machinery for the sake of his, as-yet-undeclared, campaign.

 

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