French centrist party rules out participation in presidential primary

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 20, 2016 12:21 PM

PARIS (Reuters) - A key French centrist party on Sunday voted against taking part in the center-right's presidential primary in November, suggesting that it could present its own candidate if its demands for the 2017 presidential election are not met.

Nine candidates have so far declared they will run in center-right primaries promoted by the conservative Les Republicains party, although party chief and former president Nicolas Sarkozy has yet to announce his intentions.

Lesser candidates on the right and left political spectrums have already announced plans to run for the presidency. It is raising fears within the ruling Socialists and main Les Republicains opposition that fragmentation of votes could block the path for their chosen candidates to a second-round runoff.

The UDI party, which combined with the fellow centrist MoDem party has between 10-15 percent of the vote nationwide, opted not to run in the primary after failing to reach a political agreement with Les Republicains on a common program for the May 2017 election and subsequent legislative vote.

More than two-thirds of party members voted against taking part in the primary.

Speaking to Le Parisien newspaper, UDI chief Jean-Christophe Lagarde said he did not rule out backing MoDem leader and veteran centrist Francois Bayrou, who is polling around 12 percent. Bayrou has said he would run in the presidential election if Sarkozy threw his hat into the ring.

(Reporting By John Irish and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Stephen Powell)