Former prime minister Alain Juppe said on Monday he had decided “once and for all” not to stand in France’s presidential election, dashing the hopes of many in his conservative party whose scandal-hit candidate faces defeat.

Juppe said Francois Fillon had wasted a chance of victory, calling the 63 year-old obstinate for staying on in the face of an inquiry into alleged misuse of public funds. Opinion polls show him crashing out in the first round.

Juppe offered no alternative plan less than 50 days from the April 23 vote.

“Francois Fillon… had a boulevard (to the presidency) in front of him,” Juppe said at a news conference. “The instigation of judicial investigations against him and his defense based on a supposed plot and political assassination has brought him to a dead end.”

By Claude Canellas and Brian Love