PARIS Left-leaning voter support for former French prime minister Manuel Valls has surged since he announced he was seeking the Socialist nomination for the presidential election next spring, a poll showed on Wednesday.
Valls, a law-and-order man whose pro-business stance has occasionally irked left-wingers, resigned as head of President Francois Hollande's government on Tuesday to run in their party's primary election in late January..
Hollande, France's most unpopular president to date, announced last week he would not seek reelection.
One out of two leftist voters would vote for Valls in the first round of the presidential election, an Elabe poll for BFM TV found.
That was up 14 percentage points from a month ago and gave Valls a solid lead over other high-profile leftist politicians to win the Socialist primary.
Regardless who wins the party's ticket, most opinion polls indicate that a Socialist candidate will fail to pass the first round of voting next April and expect a runoff in May.
Most polls say conservative former prime minister Francois Fillon and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen will come out on top of the first round, and Fillon should win the runoff with about two-thirds of the vote.
When including voters from across the political spectrum, the Elabe poll found former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who is running as an independent, to be the most popular among left-wing candidates.
Some 33 percent of those polled said they would probably vote for Macron and 27 percent would vote for Valls.
(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Tom Heneghan)