France’s ex-Prime Minister Manuel Valls has thrown his weight behind the centrist candidate for the presidency, Emmanuel Macron, and not his own Socialist party’s candidate.
“It’s a question of reason,” he said on French TV.
His decision prompted immediate thanks from Mr Macron, who is neck-and-neck for the first round of the election with far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Mr Valls was himself defeated in the race for the Socialist candidacy.
But instead of backing the man who won, Benoît Hamon, the former prime minister announced on Wednesday that backing Mr Macron was the responsible position to take, because of the risk of giving the presidency to the right or far right.
“I don’t think you take risks for the Republic. So I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” he said.
Mr Valls met Socialist MPs on Tuesday night to explain his position.
While not the first senior party figure to back Emmanuel Macron, he is seen as the biggest name so far. Defence Minister Yves Le Drian and a handful of junior ministers have already given the centrist their support.
Mr Macron served as economy minister in Mr Valls’s Socialist government but left to fight for the presidency with his own movement En Marche! (On the move). Opinions polls suggest he will qualify for the second round run-off against Ms Le Pen in May.
Centre-right candidate François Fillon and his British-born wife, Penelope, have been placed under formal investigation on suspicion of abusing funds amid “fake jobs” allegations.