A long-time centrist politician in France has offered a potential alliance to independent candidate Emmanuel Macron. Francois Bayrou has run in three previous presidential elections but has declined to do so again.
Bayrou announced on Wednesday that he would not stand in France's presidential election in April month and would instead meet with Macron to discuss an alliance, which Macron has reportedly accepted.
Macron is in a close election battle with conservative Francois Fillon and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen - with only two places available in the decisive second-round runoff. In the past, Bayrou's centrist voters have played a key role in shaping second-round results. This year, they could help boost Macron's chances of beating Fillon in the first round and securing a head-to-head against the populist daughter of the National Front's founder.
"Never in the last 50 years has French democracy been in such a state of decay," Bayrou told supporters on Wednesday, adding that he had considered an election bid himself but did not want to split moderate votes and contribute to "the failure of France."
In a tweet, Bayrou said "I have decided to propose an alliance to Emmanuel Macron to offer voters a true alternative."
Bayrou added that his support did have a caveat.
"As a priority, I demand of Emmanuel Macron a morality law for public life, in particular to battle against conflicts of interests," Bayrou wrote, a reference to a scandals alleging misused funds to pay salaries of officials that have engulfed Le Pen and Fillon recently.
Current polls show Le Pen reaching the second run-off stage of France's election along with either Macron or Francois Fillon, making a boost of even a few percentage points due to an endorsement by Bayrou an enticing offer.
Bayrou has stood for three previous presidential elections. In 2007, he won more than 18 percent of the vote, dipping to just under 10 percent in 2012. His popularity has declined in recent years, and recent polling indicated he would win around 6 percent of the vote if he were to take part in the first round of the election.
mz/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)