Polls open in France opposition primary vote
Polls opened on Sunday in France's first open US-style primary election, with the left-wing opposition choosing a candidate to take on an increasingly vulnerable President Nicolas Sarkozy next year.
Voters are deciding who will lead the Socialist Party, with former leader Francois Hollande appearing at the head of a pack of six frontrunners.
For the first time in France, the election is open not to just card-carrying Socialists but to any voter who is on the electoral roll, who says he or she supports left-wing ideals and who pays at least one euro to cast the ballot.
The winner will in April 2012 take on conservative Sarkozy, who poll after poll suggest could be ousted after five years in office amid a sputtering economy, high unemployment and a series of of scandals involving close aides.
In the likely event that no candidate receives an absolute majority in Sunday's election, a second run-off round will be held October 16.
Hollande, 57, is the favourite, with the latest IFOP poll predicting he will win Sunday's first round with 42 percent. Next is Martine Aubry, 61, a former labour minister and creator of France's popular 35-hour working week.
According to opinion polls of likely voters, either Hollande or Aubry would beat Sarkozy in next year's presidential vote.
Others contesting Sunday's primary are: Segolene Royale, 58, the Socialists' defeated candidate in 2007 and Hollande's former life partner; Manuel Valls, 49, a free-market pragmatist from the Socialists' right; and Arnaud Montebourg, 48, who has campaigned on a protectionist ticket.
Jean-Michel Baylet, 64, and the head of the small, centrist Radical Party of the Left, is the only non-Socialist in the race.
Polls in Sunday's vote will close at 1900 pm (1700 GMT).
© 2011 AFP