Hamon, Valls qualify to France's Left primary run-off

Early estimates for voter turnout were lower than predicted at around 1.8 million and less than the two million expected to show up to vote, which is another disappointment for the Socialist Party that was hoping to mobilise interest in the candidates.

The winners of this first round will then advance to a runoff on January 29 that will decide who will run for president on the Socialist ticket in April and May - with polls indicating, however, that no Socialist candidate stands any great chance of succeeding current President Francois Hollande.

Arnaud Montebourg, the anti-austerity former finance minister, who was leading in surveys, conceded his defeat - he came in third - and endorsed Hamon in the run-off next Sunday.

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Former French prime minister Manuel Valls leaves the voting booth.

The presidential vote is held in two rounds on April 23 and May 7, unless one candidate gets a clear majority in the first round ballot.

Opinion polls suggest that whoever wins the left-wing nomination will have little chance of reaching the final round of the presidential election in May.

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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.

The programme of Fillon, seen as the election front-runner, includes cutting business taxes, relaxing labour laws and scrapping the 35-hour working week in an attempt to boost growth, while also eliminating half a million public sector jobs as part of a drive to shrink the state sector.

Mr Fillon is widely expected to emerge as the victor.

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