(Updates results in second paragraph.)
Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Francois Hollande and Martine Aubry will face off to decide who will challenge Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 French presidential elections after the two former Socialist Party chiefs led the first round of the party primary.
The two head for a run-off on Oct. 16. Hollande received 39 percent and Aubry 31 percent yesterday, the party said on its website, based on about four-fifths of the 2.5 million votes cast. They needed 50 percent to avoid the second round.
Hollande can’t be sure of repeating his first-place finish next week, said Bruno Cautres, a political analyst at Cevipof, a Paris-based political research center. “The gap between Aubry and Hollande is fundamental. Above 10 percentage points he is the leader, without question. Below a dozen points, he will have a hard time.”
Segolene Royal, the Socialists’ 2007 presidential nominee, was fourth with 7 percent. Third place, at 17 percent, went to lawmaker Arnaud Montebourg, an advocate of nationalizing banks.
“Montebourg represents a trend, a current of the Socialist party that is emerging,” Cautres said. “He asks for a new constitution, no new European Union members, state control of banks and companies. His position is totally different from both Aubry and Hollande, so it’s difficult to imagine how he will endorse any of other two.”
The only losing candidate so far to endorse one of the front-runners was Manuel Valls, who told the 6 percent of voters who backed him to support Hollande.
“I have heard the word of this awakening, of this need for justice, and this France that wants to be heard,” Hollande said on i-Tele television when asked about Montebourg’s support.
Polls indicate that either of the potential nominees would beat Sarkozy in the general election. Sarkozy, who has yet to declare his candidacy, would take 21 percent in the first round of the general election compared with 32 percent for Hollande. Aubry would beat him 29 percent to 22 percent, according to an Ipsos survey.
Paris-based Ipsos conducted the poll of 962 voters on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. It didn’t provide a margin of error.
The primary was open to any French voter willing to pay 1 euro ($1.35) to the Socialist Party. It’s the first time the party opened a primary to non-members.
Socialist candidates signed a common platform in April, dubbed “The Change,” that included the creation of a public investment bank, the construction of 150,000 public-housing units, changes in taxes on companies, legalization of same-sex marriage and adoption and cutting the budget deficit to below 3 percent of gross domestic product by the end of 2013. The chosen candidate will be able to change the platform.
Aubry has called for less reliance on nuclear power, which generates about 75 percent of electricity in France. She also promised to restore the retirement age to 60, down from 62 as implemented by Sarkozy, though she would maintain the number of working years required for a pension, meaning that only people who started working as teenagers would be able to retire at 60.
Hollande has called for withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, two years earlier than Sarkozy. He said he would revise the stock options rules for companies and the tax code for individuals and companies.
France will hold the first round of the presidential election on April 22 and the second and final round on May 6.
--Editors: James Hertling, Jennifer M. Freedman
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