Thursday 22 March 2018

Macron gets boost with backing of centrist rival

Alliance: François Bayrou
Alliance: François Bayrou

Henry Samuel, Paris

Emmanuel Macron's campaign for the French presidency received a boost yesterday when he agreed to forge an "alliance" with François Bayrou, the veteran centrist politician, against their conservative and far-right rivals.

The offer from Mr Bayrou (65), who has run for president three times and came third in 2007 with 18.5pc of the vote, came as a surprise, as many observers thought he would announce his candidacy.

But speaking at his Modem party headquarters in Paris, he said the hour in France was too grave to think of self-interest.

"I have decided to offer Emmanuel Macron an alliance. The danger is too big, we must change things," he said, describing his decision as a "sacrifice".

"We are in an extremely risky situation, and to tackle this exceptional situation, I think we need an exceptional response," he said.

Cheers reportedly erupted from the headquarters of Mr Macron (39), an ex-investment banker and economy minister under President François Hollande. Shortly afterwards, Mr Macron confirmed that he had "accepted" the offer, describing it as a "turning point in the presidential campaign".

Critics point out that voter intentions indicate that Mr Bayrou stands no chance of election. But if his followers were to heed his call, the extra votes could push Mr Macron ahead of François Fillon, the conservative candidate for Les Republicans party.

Recent polls have placed the pair neck and neck in the first round on April 23, in which Front National candidate Marine Le Pen is expected to come first. Either candidate is expected to go on to win the May 7 run-off against Ms Le Pen, who is nevertheless closing the gap, despite a scandal over her party's alleged misuse of EU funds to pay parliamentary assistants.

Ms Le Pen's bodyguard and chief of staff were held by police yesterday for questioning over the investigation. The anti-immigration, anti-EU leader dismissed the move as a "political manoeuvre". (© Daily Telegraph London)

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