Franois Hollande won't seek another term as France's president

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a pro-business centrist, is positioned to take up the Socialist Party mantle and join a primary race crowded with leftist candidates, including former ministers from Mr. Hollande's government.

His decision makes Hollande the first French president in modern history not to seek a second term.

The 62-year-old president the country's least popular leader since World War II said he was "conscious of the risks" entailed in him running, alluding to his historic lack of support since coming to power.

The president repeatedly claimed he would only seek re-election if he was able to curb the unemployment rate, which has hovered for years around 10%.

After Britain's shock vote to quit the European Union and the United States choice of Donald Trump as president, the French election next year is on course to turn into another test of voters' anger with traditional elites.

"We're moving to new times, and very different times", said Philippe Moreau Defarges of the Paris-based Institute of International Relations.

France's leftist primaries will be conducted in January, but Manuel Valls, Hollande's current prime minister, is already the favorite.

Francois Fillon, the right's presidential candidate and the favorite to win next spring, said Hollande had "admitted with lucidity that his obvious failure stopped him going any further".

"As a life-long Socialist, I can not allow the dissipation of the left, its breaking up, because it would rid us of any hope of winning in the face of conservatism or, worse still, extremism", Mr Hollande said.

But more damaging revelations were to come, in a book of interviews with two journalists from Le Monde newspaper titled "A President Shouldn't Say That" that alienated some of the Socialist top brass.

The Socialist president said that his concern was about the interest of the country and he could not stand up for the breakup of the Left.

Still, opinion polls have shown neither Mr. Macron nor any of the Socialist candidates would likely get to the second round of a presidential election as they trail far behind Mr. Fillon and National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

Mr Fillon, a former prime minister, had surprised his centre-right rivals, seeing off Mr Sarkozy and another former prime minister Alain Juppe to win the nomination for the movement now known as Les Republicains.

The Socialist party began accepting candidates on Thursday for its primaries, due to take place on January 22 and 29.

The past two weeks have turned French politics on its head.

But the full range of candidates remains unknown and the role of independents such as 38-year-old ex-economy minister Emmanuel Macron are hard to predict. She praised Hollande and his courage, but said he "was unable to explain to us all of his decisions, his choices, that's his mistake". In the latest polls, he fared only slightly better than Hollande, with 9-9.5 percent support.

He beat the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy after a classic leftwing campaign in which he targeted big business and pledged to raise taxes for high earners.

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