In the second round of the first primary elections to be hold in France the Socialist Party yesterday chose its former leader François Hollande to be its candidate for president in 2012. Hollande defeated the current party leader, Martine Aubry, with some 56 % to 44 % of the estimated 2.7 millions votes cast. The first round of the presidential election is to be held on 22 April, with a second round on 6 May unless one candidate wins more than 50 % of the votes in the first round. Opinion polls have indicated that whichever candidate the Socialists chose would defeat the deeply unpopular President Nicolas Sarkozy and that Hollande might defeat him with 60 % to 40 % of the votes, but obviously it is in the nature of politics that much may change in six months (Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a living testimony to that).
However, it seems safe to say that Hollande currently stands the best chance of being President of France by next summer, which would make him the country’s first Socialist president since the presidency of François Mitterrand in 1981-1995.
There are no major political differences between Hollande and Aubry, but the latter is considered to be slightly more to the left of the party. Thus Hollande may perhaps stand a better chance than Aubry of attracting voters from and across the political centre, while voters further to the left may on the other hand rather vote for other parties in the first round.
Hollande is 57 years old and has been an MP from 1988 to 1993 and since 1997. However, he has never held a government post, which may turn out to be one of his weaker points in the election. Since 2008 he is President of the General Council of the region of Corrèze. He has four children with Segolène Royal, who was the Socialist Party’s candidate in the 2007 presidential election, but their relationship ended at about that time.