Alain Juppé rules out replacing François Fillon as France's presidential conservative candidate

The former Prime Minister has confirmed ‘once and for all’ that he will not stand to be President

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Alain Juppé has ruled out replacing conservative candidate François Fillon in the French presidential race. 

“I confirm once and for all that I will not be a candidate to be President of the Republic,” he said. 

The former Prime Minister and Mayor of Bordeaux was seen as a possible alternative candidate for the French conservatives after Mr Fillon’s campaign crumbled following allegations of corruption. 

“I have received a great number of calls urging me to take over. They have made me hesitate. I thought about it. 

“I have no intentions to start getting involved in partisan bargaining and so I do not have the capacity to do what is necessary. 

“I appreciate the disappointment that this decision will cause and the criticism. But I do not want to hand over my reputation and the one of my family as lifeblood to those destroying reputations.” 

Mr Juppé called a press conference minutes after the end of Mr Fillon’s speech at a rally in Paris on Sunday, where the embattled candidate told his supporters “not to give up the fight” for the presidency. 

Senior conservative politicians have previously called on Mr Juppé, a veteran right-wing politician, to replace Mr Fillon in the presidential race.

According to a poll by research firm Ifop, Mr Juppé, who lost to Mr Fillon in the November party primary, was best placed to step in. He received a personal approval rating of 64 per cent compared to 29 per cent for Mr Fillon. 

This follows on from allegations that Mr Fillon paid his wife and children substantial sums for parliamentary aide work they never carried out. 

Mr Fillon and his wife have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and the right-wing candidate has described the scandal as a “political assassination”. 

But the 63-year-old candidate has been summoned for questioning next week. 

Mr Juppé told French reporters that the political situation ahead of the upcoming presidential election was unprecedented during the lifetime of the nation’s Fifth Republic. 

He said the left was “fractured in several irreconcilable strands”, which will cause the Socialist Party to be eliminated in the first round of the election. 

He criticised Marine Le Pen’s Front National of “anti-European fanaticism, which would lead France to a disaster” and criticised the FN leader’s dealings with the justice system. 

Ms Le Pen has refused to pay nearly €300,000 of EU funds that she allegedly misspent.

He criticised independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, who according to the polls could win the election in a head-to-head with Ms Le Pen, of “political immaturity”. 

Speaking of his own party, Mr Juppé said: “What a waste”. 

“François Fillon had a boulevard in front of him to reach the presidency,” he said. 

The first round of the French elections will be held on 23 April and all presidential candidates must be formally endorsed by at least 500 elected officials before 17 March.

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