French Socialists anoint presidential candidate

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France's opposition Socialist Party officially anointed Francois Hollande Saturday as its candidate for next year's presidential elections, which opinion polls suggest he will win.

Hollande took the party's nomination over rival Martine Aubry on October 16 in the run-off of France's first ever US-style open primary which galvanised the French left, drawing some 2.8 million voters.

Nearly 4,000 party activists and sympathisers packed a Paris convention hall to hear the official results and hail Hollande, a 57-year-old lawmaker with no ministerial experience, and the five opponents he defeated.

He is all but certain to face right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in next spring's presidential vote, and the latest opinion poll published Thursday showed he would win handily with 64 percent of the vote in the second round run-off.

Observers say Hollande is vulnerable to charges that he lacks the necessary experience to

run France and critics have accused him of lacking the substance to take on Sarkozy.

Hollande's key task will be to rally France's Socialists after a primary campaign that, while largely civil, exposed long-standing divisions on the left.

© 2011 AFP

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