Senior members of French conservative party, The Republicans, unanimously supported Francois Fillon’s presidential bid, despite a deepening legal investigation into the allegation about his wife’s fake job, Senate President Gerard Larcher said on Monday. At an emergency meeting, “the political committee unanimously renewed its support and confidence to Francois Fillon,” Xinhua news agency quoted Larcher as saying. “Fillon indicated that he would take initiatives to bring our values together. The Republicans are therefore gathered and determined around (him),” he added.
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The party’s leadership decision came after ex-Foreign Minister Alain Juppe who lost to Fillon in November primary, refused to be “a Plan B” to re-launch the conservatives’ bid to snatch power on May 7. Fillon, 63, has been under growing pressure to quit the presidential bid after being summoned by magistrates over the affair and could be placed under formal investigation.
“No one has the power to force me to withdraw…It is not the party that will decide. It’s not regional presidents or former primary candidates who will make the decision for me,” he told France 2 television on Sunday. Portraying himself as an honest and morally irreproachable politician, Fillon previously said he would step down if he were put under formal investigation.
On January 25, French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported that Fillon had paid his wife and two of his five children about one million euros ($1.06 million) for their jobs as parliamentary assistants. However, there was no evidence showed she had really worked, the report added.
Fillon has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Meanwhile, he apologised for the ethical “error” he made in hiring his wife and their two children, a practice which he said was no longer acceptable according to public opinion.