'No one can stop me' standing in French election: Fillon

In her first interview since the allegations of almost 900,000 euros ($950,000) in pay, Penelope Fillon told Le Journal du Dimanche she had carried out "a lot of different tasks" for her husband during his lengthy political career. "If it hadn't been me, he would have paid someone else to do it, so we decided that it would be me".

With pressure building on Fillon, Penelope said she had urged her husband to keep going.

Tweeting recently, Francois Fillon said: "Never has an operation of such size been launched to try to eliminate a candidate other than by the democratic process".

It's after it was claimed in the French satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaine that Fillon's wife Penelope and other family members were paid nearly a million euros in public money to aid him in his politicial duties, but did not actually do the work they were paid for. "I am not autistic", he said, "I want to convince my friends that my programme is the only one that can bring about recovery for the country".

But his support plummeted after the claims were made and he is now polling third, behind Ms Le Pen and 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Some senior lawmakers in his Republicans party have called for Fillon to be replaced immediately, with polls now suggesting he would be eliminated in the first round of the election on April 23.

Opinion polls now show that far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron would go through to the second round of the presidential contest on 7 May, with Mr Fillon eliminated in the first round.




Earlier Sunday, Christian Estrosi, a longtime Republican lawmaker and major political figure in the south, said on BFM TV that the party needed to find a "respectful" exit for Fillon.

Fillon told the crowd, who were drenched by rain at one point, that he had been "attacked by everyone".

Even Mr Juppe, the potential saviour of conservative chances, was convicted in 2004 for an illegal party funding scheme and barred from elected office for a year.

The conservative candidate insisted, however, that he would not quit the race despite being summoned to appear before magistrates on March 15, likely to be formally charged. But, to the dismay of many of his aides, he angrily accused the judicial system of bias and vowed to fight on.

On Saturday, five members of the European parliament from the Republicans also withdrew their support and called for another candidate to be quickly appointed.

Henri de Castries - a former CEO of the Axa insurance firm - said Fillon should remain in the race because he had "legitimacy" from his clear victory over Alain Juppe in November's nominating contest.

In the interview, Penelope Fillon described the controversy over her paid employment as a nightmare. A poll on Friday showed that Juppe would win the April 23 first round, although the current mayor of Bordeaux has until now ruled out a comeback.

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