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France

Defections boost support for centrist presidential hopeful Macron

© Julien Mattia, NurPhoto | French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron addresses French Mayors during a conference at Maison de la Radio on March 22, 2017 in Paris, France.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-03-23

French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has announced his support for presidential election frontrunner Emmanuel Macron. This is a major boost for the centrist candidate, who has been increasingly backed by members of the Socialist Party.

Le Drian is considered one of the more popular members of President François Hollande's cabinet and a respected voice in security matters and foreign affairs.

Support of this Socialist Party grandee, who has been both a close ally and friend of Hollande for nearly 40 years, would give the presidential hopeful more weight in those particular areas.

Macron saw his lead in the polls bolstered by news on Thursday that two members of the government were backing the 39-year-old centrist candidate, instead of the official Socialist Party contender, Benoît Hamon.

The other defector is junior sports minister Thierry Braillard. "I've decided to back Emmanuel Macron from the first round of the presidential election," Braillard tweeted.

Earlier this week, biodiversity minister Barbara Pompili, another junior member of the Socialist leadership, also switched allegiance to Macron rather than back Hamon.

The Cross-partisan choice

Macron, who has never held elected office, has gatecrashed the leadership contest with a pledge to transcend the long-established divide of Left-versus-Right politics with a programme for cross-partisan government.

His position was confirmed by a Harris Interactive poll of more than 6,000 voters that showed Macron coming top in a first round of voting on April 23 and then trouncing far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the two-way run-off on May 7.

All this is bad news for Hamon who has been struggling in fourth place in the polls for weeks and fell to fifth spot in the Harris poll. Only the two top candidates in the opening round, which all opinion polls say will be Macron and Le Pen, can go through to the run-off.

In a reaction ahead of Le Drian's announcement, Hamon's spokespersons denounced the rallying, saying it is 'unacceptable' for Le Drian to distance himself from the Socialist Party vote in the primaries.

"Jean-Yves Le Drian does not respect the vote of the left-wing voters who have largely nominated Benoît Hamon as their candidate for the presidential election. It is not acceptable, in a democracy, that politicians would only comply with voters if they agree with their choice," they wrote.

Hollande, the first president not to seek re-election since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1962, had appealed to ministers to refrain at least until the end of this week from taking pre-election positions.

Le Drian announced his move to regional newspaper Ouest-France. The support of a respected voice in security matters and foreign affairs is particularly welcome news for the youthful former economy minister, who has been criticised by opponents for lacking experience in these areas.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

Date created : 2017-03-23

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