Averting a further split among conservatives, former Premier Raymond Barre said Monday he would not run for the presidency.
Barre’s decision leaves the door open for a possible late entry into the campaign by former President Valery Giscard d’Estaing. A moderate conservative like Barre, Giscard d’Estaing was expected to announce his decision today.
Barre was prime minister in 1976-1981, while Giscard d’Estaing was president. Neither one has received more than 6 percent support in recent polls.
The two leading conservative candidates to succeed President Francois Mitterrand are Premier Edouard Balladur and Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac. Chirac has pulled ahead in the most recent polls, but more than 40 percent of voters are reportedly undecided.
The first round of voting will be April 23. If no candidate wins an absolute majority then, a second round will be held between the top two vote-getters on May 7.