François Fillon has announced to be placed under formal investigation over claims he paid his family members for fake parliamentary jobs. Despite the inquiry, Les Republicains’ candidate has maintained that he “will not withdraw” from the campaign.
It has been more than a month since Francois Fillon was first accused of paying his wife and children for parliamentary jobs that are suspected to be fake. On the morning of March, 1st, the rightwing candidate cancelled his visit to the Salon de l’Agriculture, the country’s annual farm fair, in order to hold an impromptu press conference from his headquarters.
Sacrificing an important stop on the election trail, Mr. Fillon confirmed that he had been summoned to appear on 15 March before judge Serge Tournaire, also known for having pinned down former president Nicolas Sarkozy for financial corruption.
Mr. Fillon has vowed to continue the campaign, contradicting a pledge to stand down in the event of a formal inquiry issued several weeks ago. Mr. Fillon has slammed the investigation as a “political assassination”, not only of himself but also the presidential election at large.
Allies and members of the campaign team pull out
Many supporters have since actively criticized Mr Fillon for breaking his pledge.
Bruno Le Maire, a former candidate to the right primaries and who subsequently worked as Mr. Fillon’s foreign affairs spokesman, was the first one to resign from the campaign. Mr. Fillon’s decision to continue the campaign undermines “the credibility of politics”, he said, and goes against his principles.
(“In line with my principles, I resign from my role as foreign and european affairs spokesman in François Fillon’s campaign”)
Sébastien Lecornu, deputy director of Fillon’s campaign, also walked out on Thursday morning claiming that the current candidate “was not quite capable of doing his job”.
Close relations of former primaries’ candidates Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy added themselves to the hemorrhage. More supporters could follow this decision, according to Le Monde
Jean-Christophe Lagarde, the president of the centre-right Union des démocrates et indépendants (UDI), announced that it was suspending support for Fillon’s campaign.
Rivals denounce violence of press conference
President François Hollande, who is not seeking re-election, commented that no candidate had the right to discredit the legal authorities.
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist party candidate, denounced an “incredible violence towards the judges and the justice system”.
“He talks of ‘political assassination’, but the reality is that it’s the ongoing series around François Fillon’s affairs that is degrading the presidential campaign,” he said.
Credits: CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP