Fillon’s allies jump sinking ship as calls grow for Juppé to return

Presidential candidate François Fillon's decision to carry on until the bitter end despite facing charges over a fake jobs scandal has not gone down well with members of his own party who are now jumping ship and calling for Alain Juppé to save the day.

Fillon's allies jump sinking ship as calls grow for Juppé to return
Photo: AFP

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.





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Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”