PARIS (AP) — Nine competitors are bidding to be the Socialist Party's candidate in next year's French presidential election.
Among those who declared their candidacy by Thursday's deadline are former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is regarded as the front-runner to represent the Socialist party and its allies.
Valls resigned as prime minister earlier this month after announcing he would run to replace Francois Hollande, who won't seek a second term.
Valls hopes to unite France's Socialist party but faces tough competition from former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg and former Education Minister Benoit Hamon, party rebels who back more left-leaning policies.
Other candidates are Sylvia Pinel, Gerard Filoche, Vincent Peillon, Fabien Verdier, Jean-Luc Bennahmias and Francois de Rugy. The definitive list of contenders will be known on Saturday once approved by the primary's organizers.
Peillon, education minister from 2012 to 2014, also presents himself as the candidate of "unity" while Filoche, who formerly enforced employees' rights as a work inspector, is championing working-class interests.
Bennahmias and de Rugy are well known for their green credentials and Pinel has held minister positions in Hollande's governments. The youngest in the race at 35, Verdier remains largely unknown outside political circles.
The primary will take place on Jan. 22-29 over two rounds. All French citizens over 18 are allowed to vote if they pay 1 euro and sign a document saying they share the values of the left.
Other candidates including far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon and centrist figure Emmanuel Macron — a former economy minister under Valls — have chosen to run independently.
Current opinion polls suggest that the second round of the presidential election could pit Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, against conservative nominee Francois Fillon.