French presidential hopeful Fillon refuses to drop out

Feb 09, 2017, 00:30

"Nothing will turn me from my duty to be candidate in the presidential election", he said.

"I am not the candidate of a party - no organization has the legitimacy to put the primary vote into question", he said.

The stakes are high for the party, which is battling to return to power after five years of Socialist rule under President Francois Hollande.

French politicians are allowed to hire family members as aides as long as they actually do the jobs for which they are paid.

A day after he publicly apologized and vowed to stay in the presidential race, Fillon reiterated in a letter published by Ouest-France that he had "nothing to hide" and that "everything is legal".

The favorites to reach the second and final round of voting in May are the former economy minister and independent candidate, Emmanuel Macron, and leader of the anti-immigration and populist National Front party, Marine Le Pen. He said she was paid an average 3,677 euros per month over 15 years.

Over the past two weeks, investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaine has claimed - citing pay slips - that Fillon had paid about €1 million ($1.08 million) out of public funds to his wife and two of his children as parliamentary assistant and consultants for legal expertise, respectively.

A local magazine carried out an investigation into almost one million euros paid by Fillon's office to his wife.

Mr Fillon said he would step down if placed under formal investigation. "It was a mistake, I deeply regret having made this mistake, and I would like to apologise to the French citizens".

The Harris Interactive poll said 65 percent of voters still believed the French mainstream right should choose a candidate other than Fillon, who has been hit by allegations of paying his wife unjustifiably large sums of money for work done for him.

It has been common for French legislators to employ wives, children and even mistresses in their office. "I don't deal with his communication", she said in that interview with the Daily Telegraph.

"Her job was vital for my role as an elected official".

"Today we know who will be candidate to the end", Fenech told BFM-TV. The paper says she already had a new aide job, arranged at Fillon's request, working for the lawmaker who replaced him.

The poll showed Ms Le Pen garnering 26 per cent of the vote in the April 23rd first round, up 0.5 per cent since Monday, while Mr Macron would get 21 per cent, also up 0.5 per cent.

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