French former prime minister Alain Juppe on Monday ruled himself out as an alternative candidate to Francois Fillon, the rightwing nominee who is embroiled in a fake jobs scandal.
"I confirm for a final time that I will not be a candidate to be president of the republic," Juppe, 71, told a news conference in his hometown Bordeaux.
He also criticised Fillon for his defiance of the justice system and criticism of the media.
Fillon's defence of denouncing a plot "has led him into a dead end," Juppe said, lamenting: "What a waste!"
Recalling the November rightwing primary, when Fillon easily beat Juppe to the nomination, he said the result was "uncontested" and that he immediately threw his support behind his Republicans party colleague.
He said Fillon had "an open road" ahead of him to the presidency before he was put under investigation for allegations that he paid his wife Penelope hundreds of thousands of euros from public funds with little work to show for it.
He said he did not think he could rally enough support behind a candidacy, adding: "It's too late."
Juppe noted that "part of the centre" has deserted the Republicans, a reference to former Socialist economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who formed his own centrist movement and is now riding high in the polls.