France's ex-PM backs Macron for presidency

2017-04-21 11:00:54 GMT2017-04-21 19:00:54(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

PARIS, April 21 (Xinhua) -- France's former prime minister Dominique de Villepin said on Thursday that he would support centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron's presidential bid.

"There is a new path, which Emmanuel Macron wants to open, and that is to unite," Villepin was quoted as saying by local newspaper Le Parisien.

De Villepin, prime minister between 2005-2007 under then president Jacques Chirac, said that Macron was the best choice to face "the extremes that were determined to flip the table" and traditional parties, regardless the quality of candidates and projects, remain imprisoned by their own divisions.

According to an opinion poll unveiled on Thursday by market research firm Harris Interactive for the French national broadcaster, Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen will lead in the first round of votes on Sunday, winning 25 and 22 percent respectively.

Regarding the outcome of the second round, scheduled for May 7, the poll predicted that independent candidate Macron will defeat Le Pen by 66 against 34 percent.

In a further sign of Macron's increasing chances of the presidency, former prime minister Manuel Valls and incumbent defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of the ruling Socialist Party said they backed Macron's presidential bid.

"I decided to support Emmanuel Macron. His project is voluntarist and pragmatic," Le Drian said.

Le Drian, a close ally to Hollande, joined two members of the Socialist government -- biodiversity minister Barbara Pompili and Bernard Poignant, a close adviser to the French head of state -- in announcing their endorsement to the centrist front-runner.

Macron was the former economy minister under President Francois Hollande, who has decided not to seek a second term.

With a predicted 6 percent of support, centrist presidential candidate Francois Bayrou two months ago said he endorsed the ex-economy minister to overcome "a situation of extreme risk."

Two days ahead first leg of French election, Macron holds the lead in several polls released on Thursday.

On the May 7 run-off, he is predicted to win with a large margin against Le Pen from far-right National Front party.

Macron, a pro-business contender is proposing a multiform platform to appease voters of different political views.

"My approach, since the beginning, has been to bring together the left progressives, center and right-wing and civil society; that's what we are succeeding," he said in a recent TV interview.

"In this election, no candidate can claim to govern, rule with a single party, none...," he added.

If elected, Macron wants to raise taxes on consumption and wealthy pensioners, boost the defense budget, hire 10,000 police officers and raise funding for schools.

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