Fillon Says He Won't Give in to Pressure to Step Down From Race

  • French presidential candidate speaks on national television
  • Party leaders defect as employment scandal continues

Francois Fillon said he won’t give in to pressure from France’s Republican party and that he’ll stay in the race for the presidential election following a rally he said proved his legitimacy as a candidate.

“No one has the power to force me to step down, it’s my decision,” Fillon said during an interview on France 2 television Sunday evening. “Any change so close to the elections is necessarily doomed to fail.” He declared his innocence against allegations that he hired his wife as a parliamentary aide though she did no work. His appearance had remained uncertain all day after the TV interview was canceled and then rescheduled. 

At the rally, thousands turned up on Place du Trocadero opposite the Eiffel Tower as heavy rain subsided in the French capital to support the conservative candidate. While leaders from his Republican party are meeting on Monday to decide on his future, Fillon said he wouldn’t let the party push him aside.

Potential charges of embezzlement against him are “unfair,” Fillon told cheering supporters, with claims of innocence he reiterated during the evening news. The turn out at Trocadero confirms his wide victory at the November Republican party primary, he said on France 2.

Party executives brought forward a meeting planned on Tuesday amid growing support for former prime minister Alain Juppe to take his place. Juppe said he would have an announcement at 10:30 a.m. Monday. 

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. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy and Juppe, who had both run in the primary against Fillon, spoke Saturday night about ways to end the crisis, Agence France-Presse reported.

“I don’t want Fillon to give up,” said rally attendee Cornelly d’Aucy, 80. “We’ve been supporting him since the very beginning. His program is marvelous and I’m voting for it for the country’s future and for my grand-children.”

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