Socialists in France hold first round of voting in presidential primary

Former prime minister Manuel Valls is among those hoping to secure the nomination

Socialists in France hold first round of voting in presidential primary

Former French Prime Minister and left-wing candidate Manuel Valls. Picture by Michel Spingler AP/Press Association Images

Socialists in France are holding the first round of voting in their presidential primary.

Candidates include former prime minister Manuel Valls - who left President Francois Hollande's cabinet to run - former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, and former education minister Benoît Hamon.

A total of seven candidates are hoping to secure the nomination for the French Socialist Party, with that number to be whittled down to two today. 

A runoff election will then be held next week to choose the left-wing party's final candidate.

Opinion polls show socialists are unlikely to win the presidency, Reuters reports, amid continuing low levels of support for Mr Hollande.

The conservative candidate François Fillon and the far-right Marine Le Pen are currently leading in the polls, with the two expected to make the final vote in May after the first round in late April.

However, the independent candidate Emmanuel Macron has been making gains - with the latest polls showing him catching up on the levels of support being enjoyed by Mr Fillon and Ms Le Pen.