Francois Fillon has suffered yet more blows in his bid to become the president of France.
With an ever-deepening financial scandal looming over him, he has lost the support of a centrist party, and a key member of his campaign team, Bruno Le Maire, resigned.
Fillon delayed a visit to the Paris agricultural fair, which fuelled speculation he was on the brink of quitting.
But speaking earlier, he was defiant.
He said: “It is indeed a political assassination. But through this disproportionate attack, without a known precedent, through the choice of this date, it’s not only me they’re assassinating, it’s the presidential election.”
Fillon has lost the backing of the UDI party, who suspended support for him after it was announced the Republican was to be put under formal investigation over the scandal now known as “Penelopegate”.
Rivals Emmanuel Macron and Marine La Pen have both visited the agricultural fair in recent days on the campaign trail.
Quand Emmanuel Macron va au salon de l'agriculture.
paulsaintsernin</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LPJ?src=hash">#LPJ</a> <a href="https://t.co/VA65ieGNBr">pic.twitter.com/VA65ieGNBr</a></p>— Le Petit Journal (LPJofficiel) March 1, 2017
Opinion polls currently have Fillon behind the far-right candidate Le Pen, and centrist Macron, who is consolidating his status as favourite to win a second-round head-to-head against the Front National leader.
However, despite slipping down the polls, Fillon is still the only candidate who has secured the 500 signatures needed from local mayors to run for president.
In this fast and frantic campaign for the Elysee Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon lies fourth in the polls.
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