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‘Never give up,’ Fillon tells supporters at Paris rally

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Author: AFP, REUTERSMon, 2017-03-06ID: 1488750894884396000PARIS: Embattled French conservative Francois Fillon told supporters Sunday to “never give up the fight” and gave no indication that he intends to quit the presidential election race over an expenses scandal. He apologized to his supporters, saying that among the judicial investigation “you have been forgotten,” but the 63-year-old said he was confident he would be proved innocent.A senior politician from Fillon’s conservative camp said on Sunday that several party heavyweights were about to issue a statement calling for Prime Minister Alain Juppe to replace him.Once the frontrunner, Fillon is mired in a scandal over his wife’s pay, and his campaign has been in serious trouble since he learned last week that he could be placed under formal investigation for misuse of public funds. He is under growing pressure as party leaders prepare a crisis meeting for Monday to discuss the situation ahead of a March 17 deadline when all presidential candidates must be formally endorsed by at least 500 elected officials.After a string of resignations among advisers and backers, Fillon banked on athe rally to show his detractors that he remains their best hope to win the presidency.Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the head of the center-right UDI party, which has an alliance with the Republicans, warned on Europe 1 radio that sticking with Fillon would lead to “certain failure” and called for Juppe to step in.“In the Olympics when the gold medal winner is disqualified then it’s the silver medal holder that takes over,” Lagarde said.Opinion polls continue to show Fillon would fail to make the second round of the April/May election. Instead, centrist Emmanuel Macron is consolidating his position as favorite to win a second-round head-to-head against far-right National Front candidate Marine Le Pen.Fillon has denied any wrongdoing and complained of judicial and media bias that amounted to a “political assassination.”His attack on the judiciary in particular has caused unease within his ranks. However, an Ifop poll of 1,002 people published on Saturday showed that more than 70 percent of French voters want him to drop out. Support from his camp has also fallen to 53 percent from 70 percent two weeks ago.The same survey also suggested Juppe, who lost to Fillon in the November party primary, was the best placed to step in. A poll on Friday showed that Juppe would win the April 23 first round, although the current mayor of Bordeaux has until now ruled out a comeback.
Main category: World

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