Former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg was seen as marginally winning the first French left-wing primary television debate with former Prime Minister Manuel Valls just behind, raising the prospect of a tight race to select the Left's candidate for the 2017 presidential election. Scarlett Cvitanovich reports.
First blood to a firebrand socialist in the hunt to be France's left-wing presidential hope. Thursday (January 12) night's debate raising the prospect of a tight race for the nomination. A flash survey giving former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg a marginal win. Montebourg, who wants to levy a supertax on banks to raise five billion euros, appearing at ease over the dour but courteous two and a half hour debate. Saying the only tax he would allow himself to increase would be a tax on profits by banks, using them to finance his plan to fight unemployment. The debate winner a surprise to former prime minister Manuel Valls who labelled himself as the left's strongest candidate. Playing on his experience and tough security stance, and defending President Francois Hollande's five years, saying he was "proud" of what had been achieved. The winner of the primary has, at this stage, little prospect of topping the April-May presidential vote. Leading candidates: conservative Francois Fillon, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and independent former economy minister Emmanuel Macron are all well ahead. Two more televised debates will follow before the first round of primaries, scheduled for January 22nd.