May 3 - François Hollande, the man on track to topple Nicolas Sarkozy from the French presidential stage, offers a marked difference from his rival. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
Socialist candidate Francois Hollande is the frontrunner for France's presidential election runoff set for May 6th. The man who has been at the heart of the Socialist party for decades is something of an accidental candidate. Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was widely expected to run, but his own bid ground to a halt when he became entangled in a series of high-profile sex scandals. Hollande distanced himself from his former colleague and threw himself into the Socialist party's first ever open primary. (SOUNDBITE) (French) SOCIALIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FRANCOIS HOLLANDE SAYING: "This victory gives me the strength and the legitimacy to prepare the great challenge of the presidential election." His campaign began in earnest in January when he cried out to an electorate still suffering from the economy and put the focus on bankers. (SOUNDBITE) (French) SOCIALIST PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FRANCOIS HOLLANDE SAYING: "My real enemy doesn't have a name, or a face, or a party, he'll never run as president. And so he'll never be elected, although he does govern. My enemy is the world of finance." The tone changed little as the campaign went on -- where he promised to undo Sarkozy's pension reforms, and introduce a 75% tax on the country's super rich. While he is a seasoned local politician he has never held national office leading to accusations of inexperience from critics. Coming out of the back office in the nineties, he led the Socialists as first secretary from 1997 to 2007. Opinion polls show him with a comfortable lead ahead of his rival Nicolas Sarkozy, whom polls show is the most unpopular President in the Republic's history. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters.