Breaking News

French conservatives in disarray as Fillon clings on

WorldMar 05, 2017 04:55PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. Francois Fillon, former French prime minister, member of The Republicans political party and 2017 presidential election candidate of the French centre-right, attends a meeting in Paris

By John Irish and Andrew Callus

PARIS (Reuters) - France's conservatives appeared to be at war with themselves less than 50 days from the presidential election as Francois Fillon clung on to his struggling, scandal-tainted campaign and senior party members fought to oust him as their candidate.

In a drama-filled day, Fillon delivered a defiant speech to thousands of grassroots supporters in central Paris on Sunday, telling them that they would not be robbed of victory.

But pressure mounted for him to stand aside, and yet another poll showed him on course to be knocked out of the election in the April 23 first round, leaving centrist Emmanuel Macron favorite to win a May 7 run-off against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Once the frontrunner, Fillon is mired in a scandal over hundreds of thousands of euros of public money he paid his wife to be his parliamentary assistant. He denies allegations she did little work for the money, but suffered a serious blow last week when he learned he could be placed under formal investigation for misuse of public funds.

Speaking on France 2 television's evening news, Fillon was asked directly whether he would stand down.

"The answer is no," he said. "I see no reason to do that. It would lead to a dead end for my political family."

He added, though, that he was open to discussions. "I am not autistic. I want to convince my friends that my program is the only one that can bring about recovery for the country."

Leaders of his party, The Republicans, are preparing for a meeting on Monday evening to discuss the crisis ahead of a March 17 deadline when all candidates must be formally endorsed by at least 500 elected officials. Fillon said he would be present.

After a string of resignations among advisers and backers, the 63-year-old had been banking on a big turnout at the Paris rally to show his detractors that he remains their best hope to win the presidency.

While hailing the support of thousands of tricolor-waving backers who braved pouring rain and chanted for him to stay, he also acknowledged the obstacles facing him.

"I am attacked from all sides and with all consciousness I must listen to you, listen to this massive crowd that pushes me forward, but I must also ask myself about those who doubt me and jump ship," he said.

His party appears divided, with some heavyweights attending the rally and others looking for an alternative.

Christian Estrosi, Valerie Pecresse and Xavier Bertrand, who run three of the country's largest regions, will meet Fillon on Monday to try to find solutions, Estrosi said, naming ex prime minister Alain Juppe as the best replacement.

Jean-Christophe Lagarde, head of the center-right UDI party, which has an alliance with The Republicans, said Fillon would lead to "certain failure" and called for Juppe to take over.

Minutes after Fillon's TV appearance, Juppe said on Twitter he would make a statement to the press on Monday morning. He has previously said he would not run against Fillon's will.

L'Obs magazine, citing sources close to Juppe, said he planned to say that he would not stand for president, irrespective of what Fillon decided. It was not possible to confirm the report.

A Kantar Sofres-OnePoint opinion poll published on Sunday showed Fillon down to 17 percent, well behind Macron and Le Pen in first-round voting intentions, and therefore out of the contest at that stage.

But it also showed that if Juppe replaced Fillon, he would go through and face Le Pen in the run-off, with Macron eliminated in the first round.

French conservatives in disarray as Fillon clings on

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind: 

  • Enrich the conversation
  • Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
  • Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
  •  Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
  • Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
  • Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Mar 05, 2017 7:38AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Good one
0 0
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email