Socialists set to pick either Valls or Hamon

Benoit Hamon wins runoff to become French Socialist presidential nominee

Benoit Hamon wins runoff to become French Socialist presidential nominee

The first round of the Socialist primaries took place on January 22, with Hamon coming first as he received 36.5 percent of votes and Valls trailing him with 31.9 percent.

Almost a million people went to vote in the Socialist Party primaries, compared to 400,000 in the first round.

It grabbed headlines and underpinned his surprise success in the primary's two rounds of voting, first against six opponents and then against Mr Valls in the run-off.

The presidential race was rocked this week by ethics questions faced by conservative candidate François Fillon, a former prime minister.

In an often bitter and divisive contest, Hamon finished the second round with close to 59 percent of votes, followed by Valls, with just above 41 percent, according to preliminary results from the Socialist Party Higher Authority in a live broadcast.

Valls, 54 and former prime minister, quickly conceded defeat, saying "Benoit Hamon has clearly won". Financial prosecutors are investigating. On Sunday, Fillon told supporters at a rally to "leave my wife out of the political debate".

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Hamon's signature proposal was a basic income of 750 euros ($800) a month for all citizens, and throughout the primary campaign he fended off attacks that its cost was prohibitive. "I will never forgive those who chose to throw us to the wolves".

"It's always been hard to unite the left", Hamon said as he voted.

In such a complex political landscape, some voters cast ballots strategically.

Sunday's victor is now calling for unity in the Socialist party and urging support from other political factions on the left in order to take on the strong Conservative Republican party led by Francois Fillon and also fend off an electoral challenge from the extremist right-wing National Front, led by Marine Le Pen. Bernard Biassette, 74, a retired bank worker, voted for Hamon only to eliminate Valls, whom he saw as a greater threat to his preferred presidential candidate - Macron.

It remains to be seen, however, whether former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron might not improve his rapidly rising popularity figures still further to pose serious competition to the current favorites.

Around 7000 polling stations across France opened early on Sunday.

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