A coalition ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, former minister Francois Bayrou, was acquitted of fraud charges on Monday in a verdict that could pave the way for a return to the cabinet or another run for the presidency.
Bayrou, who helped Macron sweep to power in 2017 by abandoning his own bid for the top office, resigned as justice minister early in Macron’s presidency when the investigation into complicity in the misuse of European Parliament funds was opened. He had denied the charges.
The court’s decision raises the possibility of a return to cabinet by Bayrou, 72, in the second batch of ministerial nominations expected this week after Macron reshuffled his government in January.
The centrist MoDem party he leads is an essential part of Macron’s minority coalition, holding 51 out of the 557 seats in parliament, and is tipped for more government roles alongside the agriculture minister post it already holds.
“For me, it’s the end of a nightmare of seven years,” Bayrou told reporters outside the Paris criminal court after the verdict was handed down.
Bayrou, a three-time presidential candidate who came third behind Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal in 2007, also now joins the long unofficial list of potential successors to Macron for 2027.
Asked whether he now had 2027 in mind, Bayrou said: “We’ll see. I’m not here to think of my political future.”