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Manuel Valls, the former French prime minister, will vote for Emmanuel Macron in the upcoming presidential election, the biggest Socialist party name to abandon the ruling party’s official candidate in favour of the centrist frontrunner.

Mr Valls said on French television Wednesday morning that his own party’s candidate Benoit Hamon, who is expected to come fifth in the first round of the election next month, was not in the best position to prevent the rise of the far-right.

“I’m not going to take any risks,” Mr Valls told BFM TV. “I will vote for Emmanuel Macron.”

Mr Valls is the latest heavyweight in the socialist party to abandon the leftwinger Mr Hamon, following Jean-Yves Le Drian, the defence minister, last week. Some 50 other Socialist lawmakers have also jumped ship to Mr Macron’s party.

It is the latest twist in a tumultuous presidential race, with the wife of French presidential candidate François Fillon formally put under formal investigation last night in a fake jobs scandal that has hobbled her husband’s political career.

The Macron endorsements also highlight the battle going on within the Socialist party in the aftermath of the unpopular François Hollande government, which at one point had a 4 per cent approval rating.

Mr Hamon represents the far-left of the party and Mr Valls, who ran in the socialist primary in January but lost, represents the centre-left: both are scrapping over the future of the party in France.

The endorsements are a mixed blessing for Mr Macron, however, who has been trying to distance himself from the Socialist party and present himself as a new type of politician that is “neither right nor left wing”.

In a move that is likely to please Mr Macron, Mr Valls told BFM TV said that he would not campaign for the candidate, only vote for him. “I have nothing to negotiate and am not asking for anything, I’m not joining his camp,” he said.

Mr Macron has a broadly pro-business and pro-European platform, whereas Mr Hamon has campaigned on nationalising struggling French companies, imposing a “super tax” on banks and giving a basic monthly wage to all.

Polls show Mr Hamon taking just 10 per cent of the votes in the first round on April 23, battling for the same votes as the radical independent leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon, who wants to impose a 90 per cent top income tax rate.

Mr Macron is expected to take around 25 per cent of the votes in the first round, similar to Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front. This would put them both in a run-off in May to decide the presidency.

On Wednesday, Mr Hamon hit back against the defection by Mr Valls. “I’m not surprised,” he told France 2 television. “This sort of soap opera is meant to weaken me. I’m running my campaign by talking about the French’s daily life, not Valls’ life.”

Photo: Reuters

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