France's Fillon vows to battle on after show of support

The wife of embattled French presidential candidate Francois Fillon said in an interview on Sunday that the work she had carried out for him was real and that she wanted him to continue his campaign until the end. "If it hadn't been me, he would have paid someone else to do it, so we decided that it would be me", she said.

An Odoxa poll released on Friday showed three quarters of respondents said the ex-premier was wrong to stick to his presidential bid despite a legal investigation, with a majority of them believing he should be replaced.

Recent polls showed that once the favorite to become France's new head of state, the 63-year-old ex-prime minister seems to have little chance to make it to the second round.

Fillon is expected to speak on national television Sunday night, though cancelled a radio interview scheduled Monday morning.

"I am being attacked but through me what they look to defeat is the recovery of the nation, and a will for change that you are representing".

He has since lost support and polls now show he risks being knocked out in the first round on April 23 with far-right leader Marine Le Pen and 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron progressing to the runoff two weeks later.

At a rally near the Eiffel Tower the Republican candidate refused to say whether or not he will quit the presidential race.

Fillon has denied wrongdoing and has claimed that the fake jobs charges are politically motivated.

Polls now show however that National Front leader Le Pen will be beaten in the second round by either the fast-rising Macron or the conservative candidate.

Juppe, another former prime minister, campaigned on a more moderate platform than the tough-on-security, pro-free market Fillon.

If Fillon quits or is forced out by his party, that would plunge France's already unpredictable presidential campaign into unprecedented disarray, with just seven weeks before the first round of France's two-round April-May presidential vote.

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

Fillon's low-profile Welsh wife Penelope - accused of earning a generous taxpayer-funded salary for years for jobs she never performed - took an unusually public place at his side at Sunday's rally.

Speaking to the BFMTV news channel, Christain Estrosi, a close ally of the ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy said the conservatives "will propose an initiative to indicate the way forward", and allows " a respectful withdrawal of Fillon".

As a rally was held in Paris against corruption in politics, the French election is shaping up to be one of the most turbulent in modern times.

He will appear before investigation magistrates on March 15, put under formal investigation. He was given a suspended jail sentence in 2004 over a party funding scandal.

  • Leroy Wright