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French PM to announce bid for presidential election – reports

PARIS Socialist French Prime Minister Manuel Valls is to announce later on Monday that he will run for president in next year’s election, Agence France-Presse and French television reported.

Valls’ office issued a statement that he would make a declaration at 1730 GMT at the town hall in Evry, just south of Paris, but it gave no further details.

His expected announcement follows a primary ballot in which Francois Fillon, a 62-year-old former prime minister, secured a resounding win to become the presidential candidate of the centre-right Les Republicains party.

France’s presidential election takes place in two rounds next April and May.

The ruling Socialists, behind Les Republicains and the far-right National Front parties in current opinion polls, are organising a primary in January to pick their candidate.

Valls has long been seen as a presidential candidate, and his status as the Socialists’ likely choice for 2017 was cemented further last week after Francois Hollande’s shock announcement that he would not seek a second term.

A snap opinion poll, conducted on Thursday night after Hollande’s statement, showed that Socialist voters and French voters as a whole wanted to see Valls win the party ticket to run for president next year.

The Socialists face a tough battle over whether they should be more centrist or veer more to the left to try and regain the popularity they have lost since Hollande was elected in 2012.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Paul Tait)

-Reuters