French Republicans back embattled Fillon

Francois Fillon speaks during a debate at the French Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (CPME) union's headquarters in Puteaux on 6 March, 2017.Image copyright

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Francois Fillon has branded the allegations against him “a political assassination”

Leaders of the French centre-right have unanimously backed embattled presidential candidate Francois Fillon after an emergency meeting.

Mr Fillon, once the front-runner, has lost much of his support after being told he faces formal investigation for embezzlement.

He denies the charges and has refused to step aside.

The leader of Mr Fillon’s Republican party, Bernard Accoyer, said the party was re-launching Mr Fillon’s campaign.

The new push to revive his campaign comes after several leading Republicans wavered in their support.

Speaking after the emergency meeting, French Senate leader Gerard Larcher said all attempts to replace Mr Fillon as the Republicans’ presidential candidate must end.

The first round of voting is scheduled for 23 April.

Former French prime minister Alain Juppe had ruled out replacing Mr Fillon as a candidate earlier on Monday.

Since losing the primary, he has repeatedly said he does not want to run as a Plan B. On Monday, he said it was “too late” for him to step in and unite the people.

Mr Juppe, who is currently Mayor of Bordeaux, said Mr Fillon had “a boulevard in front of him” to win the presidency, but ended up “down a dead end”.

Opinion polls had suggested that Mr Juppe would have progressed into the second round of the election. Mr Fillon is not projected to make it past the first round.

What are the accusations against Fillon?

They have been rumbling on for more than a month now – and the longer they have gone on, the more Mr Fillon has dug in (seemingly at the expense of his own chances of the presidency).

He has fought allegations that his Welsh-born wife, Penelope, was paid for a number of years for work that she did not do as his parliamentary assistant.

However Mrs Fillon, who insists she did work for her husband, told French magazine Journal du Dimanche on Saturday that “everything was legal and declared”.

Also under scrutiny are claims that two of the children, Marie and Charles, were paid by their father’s office for legal work even though they had not yet qualified as lawyers.

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