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Fillon to make TV appearance as wife breaks silence over "fake" jobs scandal


France

Fillon to make TV appearance as wife breaks silence over "fake" jobs scandal

The embattled French presidential candidate on the right, Francois Fillon, will make an appearance on one of the main TV news programmes on Sunday night.

The unexpected move comes as pressure mounts on the 63-year-old to step down amid a “fake” jobs scandal that has engulfed his candidacy.

Fillon is holding a rally in Paris on Sunday in what was considered to be a last ditch attempt to save his bid for the presidency.

All eyes will be on the size of the crowds, to see whether he still garners enough support.

At a rally yesterday he vowed he would stay in the race.

It is unclear what Fillon is planning to say in the TV appearance on the France 2 channel. The interview was organised at the last minute and came after he cancelled a radio interview for Monday morning.

With many of his former allies shying away from Sunday’s rally, Fillon’s wife Penelope broke her silence over the allegations that she was paid around 850,000 euros of public money for work she never did.

Penelope Fillon told the Journal du Dimanche that everything was “legal” and “declared”.

She said work as her husband’s assistant was real and insisted that her husband should battle on until the end.

“He needed someone to carry out his tasks. If it hadn’t been me, he would have paid someone else to do it, so we decided that it would be me,” she said.

Fillon is struggling to keep unity within his team as pressure mounts for him to step aside after he confirmed he could be placed under formal investigation.

He had more bad news on Saturday when his Republican party brought forward by 24 hours a meeting to discuss the controversy.

Christian Estrosi, a senior member of the party and close ally of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, said senior conservatives will “propose an alternative course” for Fillon at the meeting on Monday.

Five Republican party members of the European Parliament called for a new candidate, a day after his campaign chief and top spokesman both quit, while the centre-right UDI party withdrew its backing.

But the ex-Prime Minister told a rally near Paris on Saturday: “My friends, this campaign is a strange fight. You are courageous, they want to intimidate you.

“I am being attacked but through me what they look to defeat is the recovery of the nation, and a will for change that you are representing.

“So I am asking you: don’t abdicate! Never renounce! Your commitment must continue!”

Polls continue to now show that Fillon could fail to make it through to the second round of the election.

One poll suggested that if he were replaced by the former Prime Minister Alain Juppe, who lost to Fillon in a primary election in November, the Republicans would get through to the run-off.

The candidate on the left, Benoit Hamon, also weighed in on Saturday.

He told reporters: “He is offended that we are offended that he could have hired his wife with public money without her doing the job, that he wants to preserve his privileges and impunity, something unacceptable to anyone attached to the idea of a functioning democracy.”

The far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is also embroiled in a row over claims of misusing EU funds but polls continue to show that she could make it through to the second round of the April/May election.

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