French go to the polls Sunday for the first round of leftist primaries. But most expect the governing Socialists to be ousted from power in presidential elections later this year. The poll is expected to center on the economy, immigration and terrorism – issues that have helped power support for the far-right National Front party.
The Socialist party is weak and divided, but there are still a few believers, passing out election flyers on a bitter morning as Parisians hurry past with their croissants and baguettes.
Malian-born Massitan Camara is one of them. ‘They’re young and they get things done,’ she says.
But many, among them Bruno Cautres, a political scientist at Sciences Po University in Paris, are not so sure.
“The situation is absolutely desperate for the Socialists…. They look divided. It’s unlikely they’re going to do a good score in the presidential election.
During five years of Socialist rule, France weathered three major terrorist attacks, a struggling economy and the migrant crisis, best seen in the now-dismantled Calais Jungle camp. Many French voters have criticized how the left handled these issues. President Francois Hollande has become so unpopular, he decided not to run for reelection.
The seven who are on the primary ballot include former prime minister Manuel Valls and three other ex-ministers. They have sparred in debates over whether to take the party further left or further right.
But polls indicate voters are looking elsewhere – to conservative candidate Francois Fillon, who proposes immigration quotas and better relations with Russia. Or to maverick former economy minister Emmanuel Macron. Or to far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who wants to close borders, end immigration and hold a ‘Frexit’ referendum on leaving the EU.