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Conservative ex-PM de Villepin backs centrist French presidential hopeful Macron

AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG ERIC FEFERBERG / AFP | Former Prime minister Dominique de Villepin leaves the French Constitutional Council after attending the 55th anniversary of the French constitution on October 3, 2013 in Paris

France's ex-prime minister Dominique de Villepin, a conservative, has thrown his weight behind the centrist candidate for the presidency, Emmanuel Macron, and not fellow right winger François Fillon.


"There is a new path, which Emmanuel Macron wants to open, and that is to unite," Villepin told Le Parisien newspaper.

He said that in the face of the traditional left-right party system that was imprisoned by its own divisions and extremes, it was an obvious choice to pick Macron.

Macron, who quit the Socialist government last year to run as an independent and created the En Marche! (Forward!) movement, has drawn support from politicians on both sides of the political spectrum and is one of the favourites to win the election.

The ex-investment banker, who has never run for elected office before, has  gatecrashed the leadership contest by pitching himself as the only candidate who can overhaul France’s political system and bridge the left-right political divide.

France's scandal-plagued conservative candidate Fillon, 63, has endured a wretched campaign since he was charged over accusations he gave his wife a fake job as his parliamentary aide for which she was paid hundreds of thousands of euros.

Ahead in the polls...

Macron is leading in most opinion polls for the election's first round and is expected to contest a second-round run-off with far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Polls show he would easily defeat her. However, this election has proven to be almost unforecastable, and lessons have been learned about relying to heavily on opinion polls after Brexit and the election of US President Donal Trump.

Macron also spoke with former US president Barack Obama on the phone on Thursday, in an apparent sign of support just three days before the first round of the election. Obama remains a very popular figure in France, and the pro-EU centrist is the only candidate to have spoken with him.

De Villepin himself became famous globally for vocally and eloquently opposing US plans for the war in Iraq in an impassioned speech at the United Nations in 2003 when he was foreign minister. Villepin was prime minister between 2005-2007 under then president Jacques Chirac.

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