Former French prime minister Alain Juppe has taken himself out of the running for this year's election.
Juppe was the runner-up behind Republican candidate Francois Fillon in the party's primary. He was being put forward as a possible replacement for Fillon, who is facing an investigation over claims that his family was paid public money for work they didn't do.
"I have no intention of embracing a partisan action,” Juppe told reporters on Monday in the western coastal city of Bordeaux, where he currently serves as mayor.
He added that he is not in the condition for “rallying forces for a federal project.”
TRT World correspondent Myriam Francois in London has more.
Former French PM Alain Juppe has ruled himself out of the running from this year's French Presidential Elections. pic.twitter.com/62SPgW8HeR
— TRT World (@trtworld) March 6, 2017
Juppe’s announcement comes after France’s former Republican president Nicolas Sarkozy called for a meeting with both Fillon and Juppe on Monday to discuss the crisis over Fillon’s campaign.
Sarkozy said on Monday the aim of the meeting was to ensure a "dignified and credible way out from a situation which cannot last any longer, and which is the source of deep concerns among French people."
The scandal has seen Fillon, a former prime minister and once the front-runner in France's two-round April-May presidential election, drop to third place in polling. But he says the strong support for him at a weekend rally in Paris is proof he still has a mandate to fight the election.
"Nobody today can prevent me from being a candidate,” Fillon said.
“I listen to what people tell me, but from a democratic point of view, I've been designated, I have 1,500 signatures from elected representatives. My campaign goes on despite the defections,” he added.
Before the scandal erupted over allegations he paid his wife taxpayers' money for little work as his parliamentary assistant, Fillon had been favourite to return the right to power against a backdrop of high unemployment and sluggish economic growth.
Fillon denies the allegations, but suffered a serious blow last week when he learned he could be placed under formal investigation for misuse of public funds.
France is “sick”
Juppe did not mention Sarkozy's planned meeting on Monday, but had some harsh words for Fillon.
"What a waste!," Juppe said of the Fillon campaign, adding that Fillon had put himself in a "dead-end" with his response to the scandal.
He also criticised Fillon for being obstinate in his determination to continue in the face of opinion polls that show him likely to be knocked out in the first round of voting.
Polls are now suggesting that far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist independent candidate Emmanuel Macron will come out on top in the first-round vote on April 23. The top two vote-getters go on to compete in the May 7 presidential runoff.
"Our country is sick," the 71-year-old Juppe added. "For me it is too late, but it is not too late for France."