France’s Fillon Battles to Stay in Presidential Race

France’s Fillon Battles to Stay  in Presidential RaceFrance’s Fillon Battles to Stay  in Presidential Race

French conservative candidate Francois Fillon battled to keep his presidential hopes alive ahead of a major rally on Sunday as his wife broke her silence over the “fake jobs” scandal that has threatened to engulf his election bid.

Fillon, who turned 63 on Saturday, has struggled to turn the page on a nightmare week that saw a hemorrhage of support after he disclosed he would face charges over allegations he gave his family fake parliamentary jobs, AFP reported.

In her first interview since the allegations broke, British-born Penelope Fillon told Le Journal du Dimanche she had carried out “a lot of different tasks” for her husband and urged him to “keep going to the end”.

Fillon was the frontrunner until mid-January when the Canard Enchaine newspaper alleged he paid his wife and two of their children nearly $950,000 as parliamentary assistants or advisors.

French lawmakers are allowed to employ family members, but investigators are searching for evidence of what work she did.

“He needed someone to do a lot of different tasks, and if it wasn’t for me, he would have paid someone to do it, so we decided it would be me,” Penelope told Le Journal du Dimanche.

With pressure building on Fillon, Penelope said she had urged her husband to keep going.

The former prime minister has claimed that the accusations are politically motivated; even hinting he believes the ruling Socialist government is behind the investigation.

His own rightwing Republicans party announced that its political decision-making body would meet Monday evening—a day earlier than planned—”to evaluate the situation”.

With some members of his own party urging him to drop out, Fillon will attempt to regain the initiative with a major rally on Sunday near the Eiffel Tower in what appears to be a last-ditch effort to stay in the race.

The danger for the right is that he could be eliminated in the first round of the two-stage contest on April 23.

Opinion polls currently show that far-right leader Marine Le Pen and 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron would progress to contest the runoff on May 7.


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