Former French PM Valls says voters could face "purge" if Fillon wins

2017-01-04 22:00:44 GMT2017-01-05 06:00:44(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

PARIS, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Socialist nominee for France's presidential elections Manuel Valls said on Wednesday voters could face "a purge" if they credit conservative contender Francois Fillon in the race to the Elysee Palace.

"Francois Fillon project is in fact a purge, a destruction, like never before, of our social model," Valls told RTL radio.

"I blame Francois Fillon for his program concerning civil servants and social protection, which opens the gates for the far right," he added.

Fillon, former prime minister, proposed to cut state payroll by 500,000 and privatize public health system to cut spending and rein the state's finances.

Instead, Valls, seen as most likely to win left primary, proposed "a clear project," in a bid to build "a Republican, secular and social block...".

The 54-year-old former prime minister proposed to merge welfare benefits into a "decent income," which will be accessible to people in need.

In order to appease upset Socialist voters, he refused to use draconian austerity measures to cut deficit, pledging to create enough wealth to put public finances on track.

Furthermore, he promised to reduce tax on overtime work to improve purchasing power.

If he wins, Valls, a security hardliner, planned to recruit 5,000 more police in the next five years and raise the defense budget to 2 percent of France's gross domestic product, in order to strengthen security in a country where terror threats remain high.

Valls, became France's prime minister in 2014 in a bid to win back the Socialists' popularity after their heavy defeat in the mayoral run-off.

Valls eyes the Left ticket to join the race to the Elysee Palace. However, a deeply-divided Left and Socialist camp dogged by public discontent over a poor economy, makes it difficult for them to maintain power in 2017.

According to pollsters, the Socialist winner of the Jan. 22 and 29 primary elections has a little chance of making it to the run-off round of the presidential election in May.

There are seven declared contenders for the left primary,including former ministers Aranud Montebourg and Benoit Hamon.

Ex-economy minister Emmanuel Macron and six other candidates have launched their own campaigns, which is likely to divide votes and crush the left parties' hope to build enough momentum to challenge the conservative candidate Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party.