PARIS Former French prime minister Manuel Valls has lost his lead over leftist opponent Arnaud Montebourg ahead of the Socialist primaries, according to two polls published on Sunday.
An Ifop poll, published by the weekly Journal du Dimanche, showed that in case of a second-round vote on Jan. 29 between Valls and Montebourg, former economy minister Montebourg was predicted to win 52 percent of the vote, the first time he has placed ahead of Valls in a major poll.
In last month's Ifop poll, Valls was still marginally ahead of Montebourg with 51 percent of voting intentions in the race to become the Socialist presidential candidate.
A second poll by Kantar Sofres OnePoint, published by daily Le Figaro, showed Montebourg would win 53 percent in a second round.
Both polls also showed Valls' lead over his leftist opponents narrowing for the first-round vote on Jan. 22.
Valls, a law-and-order advocate on the right wing of his party, received 36 percent of voting intentions in the Ifop poll, compared with 45 percent in December.
Montebourg's first-round score dipped by one point to 24 percent in the same poll, while leftist former education minister Benoit Hamon's score rose to 21 percent from 14 percent in December.
Hamon, who wants to legalise cannabis and give all adults welfare payments of 600 euros ($632) a month, also saw his support doubling to 22 percent in a Harris Interactive poll published on Wednesday.
Vincent Peillon, who positions himself at the centre of the party and only entered the race last month, was predicted to win 9 percent of the first-round vote according to the Ifop poll.
Other polls have shown that no Socialist candidate will make it through to the second round of French presidential elections in May, with conservative candidate Francois Fillon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen most likely to face off against one another.
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(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Jane Merriman and Alan Crosby)