Almost two thirds of voters in France want candidate Fillon to withdraw an opinion poll shows.
Some 65 percent of respondents want Francois Fillon to withdraw from the French presidential election, but on Friday, Fillon said he would stay in the race come what may.
Fillon has rightly blamed the pro-Macron media for his problems. The leftists satirical weekly Le Canard enchainé has been at the forefront in publishing information about the alleged payments made to Penelope Fillon and Fillon’s children while they were student lawyers. “This campaign against me is defamatory,” he complained earlier this month.
In the Ifop poll, members of Fillon’s party were more supportive as some 70 percent indicated that they wanted him to stay in the race for the presidency.
The poll for Sunday newspaper JDD, asked 1 004 respondents if they wanted Republicans candidate Fillon to withdraw from April’s presidential elections and the large majority said they wanted him out.
In the major poll in February on voter intentions, the Ipsos-Sopra Steria survey of almost 16 000 people published by the French daily Le Monde and conducted between February 7 and February 12, Fillon was trailing Emmanuel Macron, a former banker and economy minister in the socialist government.
The poll gave Macron, who heads his own En Marche political group, 23 percent support over 18.5 percent for Fillon. Popular anti-establishment figure Marine le Pen of the National Front (FN) leads polling for the first round by far on April 23 with 26 percent.
Fillon had earlier promised to withdraw if he was put under formal investigation concerning fraudulent payments made to his wife, Penelope, as a so-called assistant.
Last week a financial prosecutor investigating the nearly million euros paid to Fillon’s wife and children from public funds said the evidence gathered meant the case would go forward.
“The investigations will continue with strict respect for the rules governing the code of criminal procedure,” the statement from the National Financial Office (PNF) said on Thursday.
Fillon told the center-right French daily Le Figaro newspaper that it would be “scandalous” to deprive the center-right of a candidate. “The closer we get to the presidential election’s date, the more scandalous it would be to deprive the right and the center of a candidate,” Fillon said in the interview. “My decision is clear: I am running and I’ll go until victory.”
But a campaign meeting for Fillon on Friday in Tourcoing, close to the border with Belgium, had to be held behind closed doors after protesters shouted slogans and banged on pots and pans.
Both Fillon and Macron hope Le Pen would face increased scrutiny concerning payments she made at the European Parliament. European anti-fraud investigators (OLAF) have been reported by investigative website Mediapart and weekly Marianne as saying that Le Pen had admitted using parliamentary funds to pay her bodyguard, Thierry Légier, a total of 41,554 euros between October and December 2011 by claiming he was an EU parliamentary assistant.
Le Pen denied the reports, saying on radio France Bleu Besancon that she “never admitted such a thing to investigators”. Le Pen has refused to pay and has denied the allegations of fraud and said she would not “submit to persecution” by repaying the money.
FN leader told Reuters the demand was “a unilateral decision taken by political opponents … without proof and without waiting for a judgment from the court action I have started”.
The European parliament has long waged a funding war on the FN. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, together with other FN members had previously had EU payments cut because “misused money” that was not reimbursed, an EU official told Reuters.