France election: Fillon loses support of allied party in fresh blow

French conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon right thumbs up with his wife Penelope after delivering his speech during a rally in Paris Sunday

MORE met with French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron on Friday.

Juppe, another former prime minister, has previously ruled out stepping in as the presidential candidate if Fillon, at one point the favourite, was forced to quit the race.

Marine Le Pen, France's presidential candidate and leader of the French National Front, in Paris on February 28. Macron, a 39-year-old who has never held elected office, is presenting himself as a fresh face without political baggage.

Having originally said he would step down if he was ever placed under formal investigation, Mr Fillon has changed his mind.

Further surprises could yet lie ahead.

Macron resigned from President Francois Hollande's Socialist government last August.

In the meantime, it's become something of a habit for Mr Fillon to march voters, journalists - and sometimes his own campaign advisers - to the top of the campaign hill, before declaring that he was marching straight on down the other side.

Fillon was the frontrunner until mid-January when "Le Canard Enchaine" newspaper alleged he paid his Welsh-born wife Penelope and two of their children almost 900,000 euros as parliamentary assistants or advisors.

Mr Fillon has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing amid a judicial investigation into the allegations.

Mr Macron said he would hire 10,000 more police and create 15,000 more places in prison and boost efforts to improve relations between police and minority youths in poor suburbs.




His bereaved parents John and Diane said they wanted the images removed immediately, accusing Le Pen in a statement of using the "shamefully uncensored" picture for political ends.

He had earlier vowed to do so if charged.

A second poll by Opinionway, released daily, shows Macron at 62% against 38% for Le Pen in the second round, which is quite similar to previous days.

A survey by Odoxa Friday showed Macron leading Le Pen for the first time in polling for the initial round of voting on April 23.

His spokesman and campaign manager quit and the leader of a small centrist party confirmed it was withdrawing its backing for him as the conservative candidate.

"He (Fillon) was right on the edge of letting go", said one member of parliament.

French news reports said there's now momentum for centrist Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé to replace Fillon as the conservative party's candidate.

In his tweeted video, Fillon said the election's stakes are higher than ever and that the contest involves a decision "between several conceptions of France and its future", the far-right or left.

Le Pen has touted a "France-first" policy - similar to that that of Trump's "America-first" position - and has openly derided the European Union and "financial globalization and Islamist globalization".

Fillon used language in the video normally employed by Le Pen and her anti-immigration party, from "national sovereignty" to "vanquishing Islamic totalitarianism".

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