Paris: French left-wingers vote on Sunday to designate the presidential candidate whose mission will be to unseat Nicolas Sarkozy in an election next year, and the favourite is Francois Hollande, a moderate Socialist Party veteran little known beyond France.   

In a U.S.-style primary, the first of its kind in France, voters choose between Hollande, who has never held a national government post, and Martine Aubry, one-time labour minister, architect of France's 35-hour week and daughter of the former European Commission President Jacques Delors.   

Opinion polls give Hollande a lead of six percentage points over Aubry in a ballot that decides which of the two will run in a presidential contest that the Socialists have not won since Francois Mitterand was re-elected in 1988.   

The polls suggest French voters are ready to put the left back in power after five years of conservative Sarkozy, who is unpopular but widely expected to seek another five-year term.   

The left's runaway favourite to become president had been former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn but his IMF career and presidential hopes were halted when he was arrested in New York in May on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. The charges have since been dropped.   

The ease with which Hollande and Aubry have filled his shoes suggests that many voters are simply weary of Sarkozy and his economic policies.