Socialist Hollande enters French presidency race

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A new contender entered the race for France's 2012 presidential election on Thursday, with the opposition Socialists' former leader Francois Hollande announcing he will run for his party's nomination.

"There is no time to lose. It is urgent. There comes a point where there must be ideas and the embodiment of change," said Hollande, who has cited youth employment and tax reform as priorities.

"That is why... I have decided to present my candidacy for the presidential election through the Socialist party primary" in October, he told supporters in Tulle, where he was renamed Thursday as head of the district council.

At the primary, party members will choose between Hollande, his former partner Segolene Royal who was beaten to the presidency by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, and other possible Socialist contenders.

These include Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, who polls show has the best chance of winning the presidency. He has hinted that he will run but not officially announced it.

A CSA poll published on Thursday showed that Hollande too could beat Sarkozy in the first round with 24 percent of a presidential vote.

The party's leader Martine Aubry, who has strained relations with Hollande, has also yet to announce whether she will seek to run for president.

The winner of the Socialist primary will almost certainly face Sarkozy, who is suffering low approval ratings, and the leader of the anti-immigrant National Front, Marine Le Pen.

Recent polls showed Le Pen too could beat Sarkozy in the first round. The Front has forced Sarkozy's UMP party to compete with it on crime and immigration policies, amid unemployment of more than nine percent.

"It is an exceptionally difficult time for our country. The left must be up to the challenge. Otherwise we must fear the worst: extremism, defiance, resignation," Hollande said on Thursday.

"It must raise hope and write a new page in our history."

© 2011 AFP

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