Profile: Who is Benoit Hamon?

The leftist candidate shocked many by defeating former PM Manuel Valls in the Socialist Party primary.

    Benoit Hamon wants to introduce a basic income for all French citizens [Laurent Capmas/Reuters]
    Benoit Hamon wants to introduce a basic income for all French citizens [Laurent Capmas/Reuters]

    Benoit Hamon enters the French presidential contest as a rank outsider as the candidate representing the unpopular incumbent Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party.

    Born in 1967, Hamon spent four years of his childhood in Senegal before returning to France to study history.

    He found his political footing at an early age, leading the Young Socialist Movement and starting his career as a parliamentary assistant shortly after graduating.

    That career has since developed to included time as a member of the European parliament and election to the French National Assembly.

    Hamon served in two ministerial positions under Hollande, with portfolios in social economy and education, before resigning in protest at Hollande’s purported abandonment of left-wing values.

    The former minister’s leftist credentials helped him pull off a shock victory in the Socialist Party presidential primaries, easily seeing off competition from the liberal leaning former prime minister Manuel Valls.

    OPINION: Why the French elections will change the face of Europe

    A fervent critic of austerity policies, Hamon wants to bring in radical reforms to the welfare system in France by introducing a basic income for all citizens of 750 euros ($798) a month and reducing the working week to 32 hours.

    The Socialist candidate has called for the legalisation of cannabis and condemned rhetoric on the role of Islam in French society.

    “It is unacceptable that we continue to make the faith of millions of our compatriots a problem in the republic,” he said after the burkini-ban scandal last year.

    Of the five major candidates for the presidency, Hamon is currently at the back of the pack with only 12 percent of the vote.

    He faces competition from fellow leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, who has refused to step aside or work with Hamon.

    Their disagreement centres on the role of the European Union, of which Hamon is a supporter, albeit one aiming to reform the bloc.

    Unless the split is resolved, it seem likely both will crash out in the first round, but at 49, Hamon probably has many years left to leave a mark on the country.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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