Fillon survives heave attempt as Juppé rules himself out of race

French conservative party abandons attempted move against presidential nominee

The political committee of the French conservative party Les Républicains (LR) abandoned an attempted heave against their presidential nominee François Fillon on Monday night.

Mr Fillon had scored two victories in 24 hours. After tens of thousands of supporters attended a rally to show support for him on Sunday, the former prime minister and runner-up in the LR primary, Alain Juppé, refused to replace Mr Fillon, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal.

“This morning, Alain Juppé definitively excluded being a presidential candidate, confirming there was no plan B,” Mr Fillon told the political committee.

Mr Fillon’s statement that “a certain number of officials from our movement have distanced themselves from my campaign” was an understatement. More than 300 elected officials and campaign workers have withdrawn support for Mr Fillon in the past six weeks.


Immense success

“They think that I am alone. They want me to be alone. Am I alone?” Mr Fillon said at the beginning of his rally on Sunday. Last night he called the gathering “an immense success”.

Some 45,000 people came out in pelting rain to express support for Mr Fillon. “I consider that this rally confirms the legitimacy I draw from the primary,” he told the LR political committee.

“Now it is time for everyone to get a hold of themselves and return to reason,” Mr Fillon continued. “Our voters would not forgive those who maintain the poison of division.”

Mr Fillon may agree to make former finance minister François Baroin prime minister if he is elected.

Mr Baroin is close to former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who on Monday invited Messrs Fillon and Juppé to meet him to find "a dignified, credible way out of a situation that cannot continue and which has created profound unease among the French".

The three LR leaders are to meet on Wednesday.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is an Irish Times contributor