Embattled French conservative, Francois Fillon continues to be dogged by financial scandal despite friends and foe in the Republican party deciding earlier this week to stick with him.
Le Canard Enchaine, the publication which first reported on the so-called “fake job” allegations, has written in its latest edition that investigators are now also looking into an undeclared 50,000 euro loan Fillon received from Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, a businessman who employed Fillon’s wife.
🇫🇷 “François Fillon, le repris de justesse” (Une Canard Enchaîné demain) a reçu en 2013 un prêt de 50 000 € non déclaré à la Haute Autorité pic.twitter.com/alVyVxqENP— Gilles Klein (@GillesKLEIN) March 7, 2017
But a defiant Fillon, who is determined to relaunch his presidential campaign, told supporters in Orleans in north-central France to ignore the report.
“I think about the words by Joan of Arc facing her judges, ‘ignore, I ask you’. I think of these words today. Ignore, ignore the attacks which are targeting me, ignore because like you, millions of French people, refuse to let their votes be pre-empted and confiscated.”
Fillon’s lawyer told Le Canard the loan was fully reimbursed. In 2010, Ladreit de Lacharrière received France’s prestigious Legion d’Honneur award, after a recommendation from Fillon.
Once the front-runner Fillon has less than two months to play catch-up against far-right leader Marine Le Pen and independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.
According to polls Fillon is facing the prospect of being knocked out in the first round on April 23, leaving centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to contest a run-off two weeks later.
“I hope that this will be the start of a new campaign and that he comes out fighting and attacks his opponents strongly, there is no time to waste,” said one supporter at the Orleans rally.
But Fillon has an uphill fight on his hands to get his critics on board after the allegations involving large payments to family members and so-called “fake jobs”.
Even so France’s centrist UDI party which often works with the Republicans, has with “reservations” decided to renew its electoral support.
3 French polls today:— Taniel (@Taniel) March 7, 2017
Le Pen: 26/26/26
Macron up 20-23% in runoff. pic.twitter.com/aHZLN116SH