Mr Manuel Valls was expected to announce his candidacy after Mr Hollande said last week that he would not seek re-election. Polls predicted that Mr valls would fare better in the elections than Mr Hollande, who has been battered by high unemployment and record low approval ratings.
Valls will first have to win his party's ticket by winning a primaries in January, where he faces a tough contest against more traditional leftist.The most recent polls predicted that Mr Valls would lead in the first round of voting in the primaries, to be help next month.
If valls wins the Socialist primaries in January, he will face a tussle for Left wing votes with two independent candidates, Emmanuel Macron, reform-minded former economy minister and Jean Luc Mélenchon, a charismatic hard-left. He will also face a delicate task of wining over the Left wingers suspicious of his pro-business stance and strident views on law and order and Islam.
They are suspicious of Valls because one source of his popularity is his general disregard for the traditionalist mainstream of the French Left. Many Socialists doubt that he is even one of them in spirit. Valls, on the other hand, sees himself as a hands-on politician, especially when it comes to dealing with immigration. Indeed, with his tough stance on immigrants, he often sparks disagreements. In many respects, he differs only slightly from his conservative predecessors.
Perhaps one reason Valls is so uncompromising toward immigrants is that he is one himself. He was born in Barcelona to a Catalan father and a Swiss mother from the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and he only became a French citizen at 20. Thanks to his parents and the French republican school system, he learned to be a Frenchman, and he doesn't stop declaring his love for his adopted country. As mayor, he introduced ceremonies for new citizens in which the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise," was sung.
Despite his patriotism, Valls is proud of his origins and doesn't try to hide them. Unlike other French politicians, he also gives interviews in Spanish and Catalan. When he was recently asked on a Barcelona radio station whether a Catalan could become France's president, he replied that "it is possible" although the question isn't being raised. He did note, however, that Nicolas Sarkozy "was of Hungarian origin."
Valls is often compared with Sarkozy, and some even call him the "Leftist Sarko." They both have foreign roots and a penchant for law and order in common. But they also share another important trait: Both launched their careers without having attended France's elite École Nationale d'Administration (ENA). When Valls was once asked what he and Sarkozy had in common, he replied: "Energy."
Although an Ifop opinion poll published today as the new Prime Minister was named echoed previous ones that suggested no candidate from the Socialist party would make it to the run-off of the presidential election next spring, (the poll had Valls scoring only 10 percent in April), Valls nevertheless embarks on a new beginning.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
Photo-Credit: AP-Photo of: Manuel Valls-Francois Hollande