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"I am the victim of a smear campaign" - Fillon

The French centre-right candidate for the presidential election says he is unruffled by the scandal threatening to engulf his campaign.

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"I am the victim of a smear campaign" - Fillon

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The French centre-right candidate for the presidential election says he is unruffled by the scandal threatening to engulf his campaign.

Welcoming news of an investigation, Francois Fillon told reporters he is the target of a professional plot to sully his reputation.

Fillon said on Tuesday that he remained unperturbed by a scandal alleging fake jobs for his wife.

“I’m confident, I’m unfazed,” Fillon told reporters, adding that he was the target of a professional slander operation and is waiting for an investigation to begin.







What happened a week ago?



It was reported his wife Penelope had drawn hundreds of thousands of euros in pay from state funds without doing any work.

An official inquiry has been opened.

Fillon has said his Welsh-born wife, with whom he has five children, did real work for her pay as a parliamentary assistant.

Penelope Fillon has not made any comment.

The allegations of pay for fake works were published in the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine.

They cast doubt on the squeaky-clean image that helped Fillon win his party’s primary election over rivals who had faced legal issues in the past.





The claims



The payments involved were allegedly made between 1988 and 2013.

It is claimed Penelope Fillon was paid 500,000 euros from state funds as a parliamentary assistant to her husband

However, the paper says it could find no evidence that she had actually done any work.

On Tuesday, the publication said the figure was actually higher, at 831,440 euros.

It says the Fillons’ children were also paid 84,000 euros.

The Canard claims Penelope Fillon was also paid 100,000 euros for very little work for a literary review by a family friend.





What has Penelope Fillon said?



She has maintained she does not get involved in her husband’s political affairs.



What do the polls say?



An opinion poll published on Sunday showed Fillon losing support.

The rival independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron appears to be catching up with him.

A poll on Tuesday indicated 76% of voters were not convinced of his professed innocence.

On Sunday, polling company Kantor-Sofres put Macron and Fillon almost neck-and-neck, on 20-21 and 21-22% of the vote respectively it the first round on April 23.

This would mean Fillon has lost ground since a month ago.

Only one of them can go through to the second-round runoff on May7 against the predicted first-round winner, Marine Le Pen.

The poll suggests she will get around 25%.



Finding a replacement?



With the inquiry gathering pace, party officials began to wonder whether, and how, they might replace him.

“The way things are going, I think we might have to quickly trigger Plan B,” said one, on condition of anonymity.

“Plan B. Lots of people are thinking, reflecting and working on it but no one will speak openly about it,” said another, influential Republicans deputy.