Marine Le Pen must be struggling to contain her glee at the implosion of the centre-right Républicains party. An extraordinary 24 hours began on Sunday when François Fillon assembled his supporters in the torrential Parisian rain to reaffirm his intention to stand as their candidate in next month’s election. The former Prime Minister then appeared on TV yesterday evening to confess to his errors but reiterate that he is best placed in his party to defeat Le Pen’s National Front.
Lurking in the background, however, as Fillon spoke live on television, was Alain Juppé, who many expected to present himself on Monday as the Républicains’ Plan B. Instead, the 72-year-old declared he would not accede to the growing clamour to challenge Fillon. ‘I confirm, once and for all, that I will not be a candidate in the election for the presidency of the republic’, Juppé announced on Monday in a speech laced with bitterness. He sarcastically thanked those within his party who had turned to him as their saviour in recent days, having attacked his manifesto during November’s centre-right primary, in which he was resoundingly beaten by Fillon.
Harking back to that victory, Juppé described how the road to the presidency stretched before Fillon after his victory but he had wasted his opportunity and instead led the party through his ‘obstinacy’ into ‘an impasse’. Juppé also attacked Fillon’s supporters, an estimated 50,000 of whom gathered in Paris to cheer for their man, accusing them of being ‘too radicalised’. Juppé’s use of the word ‘radicalised’ was carefully chosen. During campaigning in November’s primary, Fillon’s supporters gave Juppé no quarter, accusing the mayor of Bordeaux of being too old, too moderate, and too soft. Worse, they gave him a nickname on account of his support in 2008 for the construction