Former French PM won't re-enter presidential race

Indo Asian News Service

Paris, March 6 (IANS) Former French Prime Minister and runner-up in the centre-right presidential primaries Alain Juppé said on Monday that he would not re-enter the race for the Elysée Palace.

There were calls for Juppé to replace Francois Fillon, whose presidential campaign for the French centre-right has been marred by an investigation into allegations that he paid family members public money for fictitious jobs, Efe news reported.

At a press conference in Bordeaux, where he is mayor, 71-year-old Juppé said: "I confirm for a final time that I will not be a candidate to be President of the republic."

He said it was too late for him to run, acknowledging that: "France needs a renewal, but I will not incarnate that renewal."

Juppé said he would confirm his decision with former President Nicolas Sarkozy and the current candidate Fillon if they wished to meet him to discuss the situation.

Sarkozy had earlier taken to Twitter calling for a meeting with Juppé and Fillon to discuss the situation together, according to the report.

Juppé criticised what he described as Fillon's obstinacy regarding the official investigation into the so-called fake jobs. Fillon's defiance of the justice and defence system regarding the allegations had led him to a dead-end, said Juppé.

Juppé also said he feared he would be unable to unite what he described as a growing militancy within the Republicans camp.

Several high-ranking staff have abandoned Fillon's campaign, sparking concerns among party officials that the candidate risked a poor showing in the forthcoming elections -- the first round of which is slated for April 23 -- followed by a final vote on May 7.

Republican party officials, including Juppé, were due to convene later on Monday to discuss a plan of action.

The allegations that have overshadowed Fillon's campaign stemmed from a report by the satirical newspaper "Le Canard enchaine," which claimed Fillon had paid his wife Penelope 800,000 euros ($845,000) of public money for a parliamentary assistant job she never did.

The latest polls in France suggested first round voting would favour the far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, while second place would be battled out between centrist Emmanuel Macron and Fillon.