Former French PM Manuel Valls endorses Emmanuel Macron for presidency

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (Left) and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron (Right) leave the Elysee palace in Paris, France, following the weekly cabinet meeting on March 9, 2016.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (Left) and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron (Right) leave the Elysee palace in Paris, France, following the weekly cabinet meeting on March 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - France's former prime minister Manuel Valls endorsed the presidential bid of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday (March 29), saying he would vote for him in the first round of the election on April 23.

Asked on French television if he would vote for Mr Macron, 39 and a former economy minister, Mr Valls said: "Yes, because I think you should not take any risks for the Republic. So, I will vote for Emmanuel Macron."

Mr Macron is predicted to face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the second round run-off.

The endorsement comes as a boost for Mr Macron, who left Valls's Socialist government to form his own political movement that he says is "neither right nor left".

Mr Macron immediately thanked Valls for his support but stressed he aimed to "renew the faces" in French politics, as polls show voters are fed up with the political elite.

The decision of Mr Valls to endorse Mr Macron will likely be seen with fury by the official Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, who defeated Mr Valls in a left-wing primary.

The candidates from the traditional left and right of the French political spectrum have seen their campaigns upended by the youthful Mr Macron - seen as a fresh face in staid French politics - and Ms Le Pen.

On the right, Mr Francois Fillon from the Les Republicains party has seen his chances founder on a fake jobs scandal. He is facing charges he misused public funds with payments totalling 680,000 euros (S$1.03 million) to his Welsh-born wife.

On Tuesday, Mr Fillon's wife was charged with complicity in the abuse of public funds in the scandal that has engulfed her husband's campaign.

Polls show that Ms Le Pen and Mr Macron are the two most likely candidates to progress to the second-round run-off on May 7, where Mr Macron is predicted to win by about 20 percentage points.

However, given the unpredictable nature of the campaign so far and previous electoral shocks in Britain and the United States, analysts caution against taking anything for granted.