France’s Fillon tells supporters at rally ‘never give up’
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.
Fillon, who is to be charged over claims he gave his wife Penelope and children highly-paid fake parliamentary jobs, told the rain-drenched crowd he had been “attacked by everyone” in the campaign.
With British-born Penelope watching him on the stage at the Trocadero opposite the Eiffel Tower, Fillon admitted he had made “mistakes” and that he bore some responsibility if his campaign “was confronted by such formidable obstacles”.
He apologised 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.
Fillon is to appear on French television news later Sunday.
Some lawmakers in Fillon’s Republicans party have called for a change of candidate, with the first round of the election fast approaching on April 23.
Former prime minister Alain Juppe, 71, has indicated through his entourage that he could be ready to step in.
Fillon beat Juppe in the rightwing nominating contest in November.
The danger for the Republicans party is that an election that they once expected to win handily could slip away if Fillon remains in place.
Polls currently show he would be eliminated in the first round, leaving far-right leader Marine Le Pen and 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron to contest the May 7 runoff.