French conservatives in crisis as former leader rules out run

PARIS — Many French conservatives had pinned their hopes on former prime minister Alain Juppe to step in and save their party’s chances in the presidential election — but on Monday he definitively rejected that possibility.

‘‘It’s too late,’’ he told reporters, accusing former prime minister Francois Fillon, who beat him in the conservative primary, of leading the French right into a political ‘‘dead end.’’


‘‘What a waste,’’ Juppe said. ‘‘Last week I received many calls asking me to take over. They made me hesitate, I thought about it. Today, uniting everyone has become even more difficult. . . . I confirm, once and for all, that I will not bid to be the French president.’’

This year’s presidential election should have been effortless for the conservative Republicans party. Instead, the party — once all but certain to take back the Elysee Palace in 2017 — is in disarray over the corruption-tainted campaign of Fillon. As Fillon clings to his bid, the conservatives are watching their hopes sink by the day.

Far-right nationalists, meanwhile, are gearing up for what they hope is their Donald Trump moment, in which National Front leader Marine Le Pen proves the pollsters wrong and harnesses anti-immigration, antiestablishment sentiments to capture a presidential victory in April.

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