Fillon might have vowed not to “surrender or withdraw” but perhaps the decision will be taken out of his hands.
The number of MPs deserting his campaign shot up on Thursday as anger grows over Fillon’s determination to continue his campaign despite confirming judges plan to charge him over the fake jobs scandal that has engulfed him ans his wife.
A growing number of MPs in Fillon’s Republicains party are stunned by the fact he went back on his promise made live on TV on January 26th that if charged he would step down.
On Wednesday, shortly after Fillon’s aggressive performance in front of the press, ally Bruno Le Maire quit his team, saying he could not support a man who had gone back on his word.
Hours later the UDI party, an ally of Fillon’s Republicans, announced it was cutting links with Fillon’s campaign due to his refusal to step aside.
On Thursday the number of deserters grew, including some big guns, including Gilles Boyer, Fillon’s treasurer.
That prompted Liberation newspaper to open a live counter to keep a track of Fillon’s deserters. The number stood at 43 on Thursday and was growing each hour.
Among the deserters were several deputies who had backed Alain Juppé, the man beaten by Fillon in November’s centre right primary.
A number of MPs from Nicolas Sarkozy’s camp also jumped ship and issued a rallying call for elected officials across France to back Alain Juppé.
Juppé has so far refused to be a so-called Plan B if Fillon falls, but he may have to reconsider that stance if Fillon considers to shred support in the coming days.
Fillon has issued a half-hearted apology for employing his wife and two of his children as parliamentary assistants over a number of years for which they earned a combined total of almost one million euros.
But he has pinned the blame for his troubles firmly on the media and the magistrates investigating him for misuse of public funds, as well as the Socialist government.
On Wednesday, Fillon lambasted the forces against him and once again proclaimed his innocence against allegations he misused public funds to pay his wife vast sums for a fake job.
“I don’t recognise the facts. I have not embezzled public funds,” said Fillon.
“I entrusted some parliamentary work to my relatives because I could trust them and they did assist me and I will prove it.”
“I have not been treated like an ordinary citizen,” said Fillon as he slammed the timing and speed of the investigation against him.
“The rule of law has been systematically violated,” he said adding “The presumption of innocence has been entirely eliminated.”
“It is indeed a political assassination. But it’s not just me they are killing, it is also the presidential election itself.”
“It is the freedom of the vote and democracy that is being violently attacked,” he added.