>> France's divided left will narrow its search for their presidential candidate this weekend, but whoever emerges victorious will struggle to head off humiliation in the upcoming election. Voters go to the polls in a primary election on Sunday, the first round of voting to decide the left's standard-bearer. In a debate Thursday, former education minister Benoit Hamon was seen to have won, with previous frontrunner ex-prime minister Manuel Valls coming in only third.
The left must deal with President Francois Hollande's legacy, whose ratings plummeted with his failure to turn the economy around. Polls suggest a near certainty that no one from the left will get beyond the first round in the upcoming general election. Reuters' Richard Balmforth is in Paris.>> There looks to be no chance of this at all.
The past five years, and the socialist President Francois Hollande, who's term of course ends in May, have not worked well for France in general. It was deeply unpopular. So it really does not look as if any Socialist nominee will be able to come back from that.>> The campaign focus for all candidates is likely to be France's moderate left-wing voters.
A vast electorate, spanning factory and office workers, shopkeepers, and Paris professional elites. Independent Centrist Emmanuel Macron, who's trying to offer an alternative to the classic left-right divide, is rising fast, opinion polls show.>> He has on his side youth, some people say. He's only 39 which puts him a generation behind Francois Fillon for instance, who was the frontrunner.
He represents a fresh face in French politics, which is important in a country that often tends to vote by default. That is to say they tend to vote for the candidates that they dislike least.>> But it will be harder for Macron to corral the center vote if Manuel Valls does manage to secure the nomination.
>> Regardless of the outcome on the left, France is desperate for change. And it's likely that conservative Francois Fillon and far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, will meet in the knock-out for the presidency on May 7th.