PARIS, , (Pakistan Point News - APP - 12th Jan, 2017 ) - Seven candidates chasing the presidential nomination of France's Socialists face off Thursday in a debate to try to rally the left, which faces the threat of annihilation in this year's polls. Former prime minister Manuel Valls went into the race as the favourite to represent his party after President Francois Hollande said he would step aside after a single, singularly unpopular term. But in recent days the pro-business Valls has seen his poll lead shrink, with his leftist rival and ex-ministerial colleague Arnaud Montebourg beating him in some scenarios.
Two rounds of voting for the Socialist nominee will be held on January 22 and 29. Irrespective of who wins the nomination, the Socialists are seen as having little chance of holding onto the presidency, with voters hungry for change after years of economic stagnation. Polls show the April first round of the election shaping up as a three-way contest between conservative ex-premier Francois Fillon, far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist ex-economy minister Emmanuel Macron.
A Fillon-Le Pen runoff in May is seen as the most likely scenario. The polls show the Socialist candidate crashing out in the first round, as voters across Europe tilt to the right or to anti-establishment parties like Le Pen's FN or Britain's UKIP. Luc Carvounas, a senator and Valls loyalist, said the challenge in the first debate would be to "create interest and make everyone want to take part in the Primary."