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More French conservatives abandon Fillon's ship

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By Alasdair Sandford
More French conservatives abandon Fillon's ship

French conservative presidential candidate François Fillon has suffered more blows as key members of his team quit over the fallout from a financial scandal.

The latest to withdraw their support were his campaign chief Patrick Stefanini, and his main spokesman Thierry Solere. Meanwhile a small centre-right party, the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) – whose alliance with the Republicans is important – called him a liability and called on the party to choose another candidate.

On Thursday dozens of conservative politicians around the country abandoned their support.

Fillon, who turns 63 on Saturday, is expected to be placed under formal investigation for misuse of public funds, allegedly paid to his wife and children for doing little or no work.

He has called on supporters to rally for his cause in Paris on Sunday, vowing to “fight to the end” and defy what he’s labelled a “political assassination”.

Several figures from the Republicans have called on Fillon to stand down and let Alain Juppé, the rival he defeated in November’s primary, to run for the presidency instead. However the idea has reportedly been opposed by backers of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy.