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French centrist Bayrou rallies behind presidential hopeful Macron

Jacques Demarthon, AFP | French centrist politician François Bayrou delivers a press conference in Paris on February 22, 2017

Centrist politician François Bayrou on Wednesday announced he would not stand as a candidate in France’s upcoming presidential election, offering instead to form an alliance with independent Emmanuel Macron.

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Bayrou, 65, ended weeks of suspense by endorsing Macron during a press conference in the French capital.

“We are in an extremely dangerous situation, and I think this exceptional situation demands an exceptional response,” Bayrou told reporters. “I have decided to offer Emmanuel Macron an alliance.

He acknowledged he was tempted to join the race for the Elysée, but said too many candidates would help the French far-right’s bid for the presidency.

Macron quickly accepted Bayrou’s overture, saying the alliance “fully corresponds” with his movement to “renew” French politics. He added that he would meet with Bayrou on Thursday.

Reporting from Bayrou’s press conference, FRANCE 24’s Chris Moore said the coalition would be key to Macron’s campaign.

“François Bayrou is a longstanding figure in French politics, the longstanding ‘third man’ of French politics, somebody who in the past has been portrayed as a kingmaker. He backed [French President] François Hollande in 2012,” Moore noted.

'A LONGSTANDING FIGURE IN FRENCH POLITICS'

Macron, a former economy minister, has garnered wide support among voters since quitting Hollande’s government last year to launch his own presidential bid.

Recent opinion polls showed the independent pulling past conservative presidential nominee François Fillon, once the favourite in the race, but then quickly slipping back.

A survey by French polling firm Elabe published on Tuesday showed that Fillon was on pace to claim 20 percent of votes, with Macron trailing him with 17 percent support.

“Emmanuel Macron is hoping that the backing of François Bayrou will give him renewed impetus. If we look at those polls it is thought that Bayrou’s electorate could represent about 6 percent of the vote,” Moore said.

Bayrou has run in three previous presidential elections, earning as much as 18.6 percent of votes in the 2007 poll. In the 2012 election his support dropped to about 9 percent in the first round ballot.

French voters head to the polls to pick a new president on April 23, with a second round scheduled for May 7.

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