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Ex-French PM Alain Juppe says he won't run for presidency amid Fillon controversy

Alain Juppe has said he's not prepared to be a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. Many conservatives had favored the ex-prime minister as a potential replacement for embattled candidate Francois Fillon.

Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppe on Monday said he would not enter the presidential race to replace Francois Fillon if the beleagured conservative decides to withdraw.

"I'm not in a position today to achieve the required unity behind a unifying project. I confirm once and for all that I will not be candidate to the presidency of the Republic," Juppe, 71, told a press conference in his hometown of Bordeaux.

Watch video 01:47

France's Fillon clings to presidential race

Members of Juppe's Republicans party had been calling for him to throw his hat into the ring after a financial scandal engulfed Fillon's campaign and led to a significant drop in his poll ratings. The crisis stemmed from allegations that he paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros in public money for a job that may not have existed. Fillon, also a former prime minister, has denied any wrongdoing.

Surveys suggest the 63-year-old, once a clear frontrunner, likely won't make it past the first round of voting on April 23. That would leave centrist Emannuel Macron to face off against far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen in the second round on May 7. Polls show that Juppe, however, would have a better chance of reaching the runoff. 

'Too late'

Juppe told reporters "it's too late" for him to start a campaign. "Last week I received many calls asking me to take the helm. They made me hesitate, I thought about it. Today uniting everyone has become even more difficult."

Juppe also criticized Fillon, who has refused to give up despite pleas from senior figures within the party.

"What a waste," Juppe said of the Fillon campaign, adding that it had reached a "dead-end."

Sarkozy joins the political chorus

Earlier on Monday, fellow conservative and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had said he wanted to meet with Juppe and Fillon to resolve the political crisis.

In a post to his Twitter feed, Sarkozy said the situation was "creating deep unease among French people," and playing into the hands of the far-right.

A meeting of senior party officials was scheduled for Monday evening.

In advance of the meeting, anonymous members of Sarkozy's entourage called for Fillon to choose a replacement to serve as the conservative party's presidential candidate. 

cmb, nm/se (Reuters, AFP)

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