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French ex-economy minister wins 2nd TV debate ahead of left primary: poll

Xinhua, January 16, 2017 Adjust font size:

Former French Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg of the Socialist Party won the second televised debate between seven candidates vying for the left nomination in the country presidential elections this year, a poll showed on Sunday.

A week before a vote on who wins the left ticket for the presidential race, the survey by Elabe pollster published shortly after the debate showed 29 percent of those who said they would join in the vote found Montebourg more convincing.

Montebourg is expected to challenge conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon and far-right National Front party leader Marine Le Pen in the race, the poll added.

Montebourg, an advocate of "made in France," promised economic and ecological recovery as well as investment in education. He also promised "a strong presidency which defends French's interests."

On the European level, he wants to reshape the single-currency bloc with a focus on tax cut and less austerity.

"Nothing is impossible. Just decide to do it and it starts next Sunday," the former economy minister said, referring to the first round of the left primary contest scheduled for Jan. 22, and a second round a week later.

Ex-premier Manuel Valls, who projected himself as the unifier of the divided left camp and is campaigning for a "strong republic, fair France," garnered 26 percent of the 1,053 sampled people.

Compared with last week's uneventful face-off, the TV debate saw contenders quarrelling over how to handle the refugee crisis.

"We must welcome asylum seekers in the long term. I am convinced that the French are more generous than their leaders," Vincent Peillon, ex-education minister said, lashing out at Valls who stressed that "unlimited welcome of refugees is not possible."

The debate showed also differences on issues of cannabis use and whether France, the eurozone's second main powerhouse, needs to reduce dependence on nuclear energy.

The seven contenders, however, agreed on the need to improve education and protect the country's secular values.

Pollsters say the winner of the left primary has little chance of making it to the presidential run-off in May, given the ruling Socialists' unpopularity. Endi