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Centrist French politician François Bayrou has announced he will not be running in the country’s forthcoming elections throwing his weight behind former economy minister Emmanuel Macron.
A pro-EU politician, Mr Bayrou has been polling around 5-6 per cent despite not confirming his intention to run as an independent candidate. His support for another centrist, Mr Macron, is likely to provide some relief to financial markets spooked at the prospect of a victory for the far-right Marine Le Pen.
Investors have been dumping French debt and heading for the safety of German bonds on the risk that Ms Le Pen could yank France out of the eurozone. She is currently leading in the polls on first round voting intentions.
Speaking from his campaign headquarters in Paris on Wednesday, Mr Bayrou, 65, said he wanted to form an alliance with Mr Macron to fend off Ms Le Pen and the National Front.
“The fragmentation of the electorate is such that a presidential bid would only increase the perils [facing France]” Mr Bayrou said.
An Elabe survey released on Tuesday predicted Mr Macron would get 17 per cent of the votes in the first round if Mr Bayrou had decided to run, and 18.5 per cent without Mr Bayrou. The figure is however down 5 percentage points from a survey published on February 8.
François Fillon, the centre-right candidate who is embroiled in an embezzlement investigation, would get 20 to 21 per cent and Ms Le Pen 27 to 28 per cent
Mr Macron’s poll rating has been hit in the last two weeks by a series of gaffes and amid mounting criticism that he has failed to outline a coherent and complete set of policies.
Last week, Mr Macron triggered uproar among veterans of the Algerian war of independence when he said the country’s 132-year colonisation of Algeria had involved “crimes against humanity”.
He caused more confusion when he sought to mend fences with his critics a few days later at a rally, declaring that he “understood” them and “loved them.”