French prosecutors maintain probe into candidate Fillon

Cheryl Sanders
February 17, 2017

France's financial prosecutor announced on Thursday that an investigation into fake work allegations surrounding presidential candidate François Fillon would remain open, in a new blow to the ex-prime minister's campaign.

While Fillon has said he would withdraw from the race if he is charged with wrongdoing, he has also asserted that he is the victim of a smear campaign and his lawyers have questioned the legality of the probe.

"I'd love to be wrong, but I can't believe any more because I can see on the ground the reaction of the voters".

"With that as a starting point, we are going to the wall", he said.

A three week-old scandal over hundreds of thousands of euros in taxpayers' money which his wife Penelope was paid for work she may not have done has cost conservative Fillon his status as favourite to win the French presidency in May. He said it was a real job, and denied having done anything wrong.

"It is normal to take stock of things with the former president in the context of a very hard general, political, economic, social and worldwide situation", the source said. Mr Fillon was due back on the campaign trail yesterday evening with a rally planned north of Paris.

He went on to defend his programme for economic recovery which includes extending the working week in the public sector to 39 hours from 35 and slashing numbers of civil servants.

Current polls suggest that centrist Emmanuel Macron is likely to beat Fillon into a run-off against Le Pen, who is expected to have more difficulty picking up votes in the second round than her rivals.

Opinion polls show Le Pen would come second by a large margin during that concluding ballot.

The first round of voting is on April 23, followed by a run-off vote between the top two candidates in May if nobody gains an absolute majority.

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