Paris (dpa) – France’s former socialist prime minister and one-time presidential hopeful, Manuel Valls, Wednesday got a cool response from frontrunner Emmanuel Macron after pledging his vote to the centrist former minister.
Macron hinted that he was unlikely to bring his former boss back into government if elected president in May, saying in a broadcast interview that there would be “new faces and practices.”
Valls was meanwhile slammed as “a man without honour” by socialist politician Arnaud Montebourg, who had run against him in January’s left-wing primary election.
Macron has been picking up support from both centre-left and centre-right politicians as the official candidates of the two main parties flounder.
Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon, running on a radical left programme that has appalled Valls and others on the right of the party, is languishing in fifth place in opinion polls.
Meanwhile, conservative candidate Francois Fillon has been beset by repeated scandals and is now under judicial investigation over allegations that his wife never worked for her taxpayer-funded salary as his parliamentary aide.
Polls currently suggest Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen will lead the first round of voting on April 23 and face each other in the decisive run-off vote on May 7.
Macron has been diffident about much of his new support, anxious to portray himself as offering a break with the political establishment.
Valls – who resigned as prime minister to run for the presidency, but lost the primary to Hamon – said that he feared polls were underestimating Le Pen’s potential vote.
A strong “progressive” candidate was needed, he told broadcaster BFMTV.
The former premier said that he did not want to “take any risk with the republic” given the “marginalization” of Hamon and the “moral collapse” of Fillon.
Macron said Valls’ support showed that “responsible social democrats… are ready to join the move that I have made.”
But he insisted to broadcaster Europe 1 that he remained “the guarantee that there will be new faces and practices.”
Asked if that meant he would not necessarily bring Valls – under whom he served as economy minister – into his administration, he replied: “You’ve got it.”
Hamon meanwhile slammed Valls’ failure to line up behind him as winner of the primary election.
“At a moment when democracy is in danger, when a big anti-democratic party, the National Front, could take power, not respecting the verdict of the ballot box poses a problem,” he said.