French police raid Fillon’s home
PARISPolice raided the Paris home of French rightwing presidential candidate Francois Fillon on March 2 over an alleged fake job scandal as a senior party colleague warned him he risked dragging his party “into an abyss.”
Fillon revealed March 1 he is set to be charged over allegations he paid his wife and children hundreds of thousands of euros for fake parliamentary jobs, but he has vowed to continue his bid for power.
After searches at his parliamentary office last month, police raided his central Paris home March 2 as he visited winegrowers on the campaign trial in southern France.
The raid “finished several hours ago,” a source in Fillon’s team told AFP late March 2, confirming information first reported by Le Parisien newspaper.
Fillon was accused by Dominique de Villepin, another former premier from his Republicans party, of driving the right wing “into the abyss” with his insistence on running for the presidency.
“Going down this dead-end street is taking the state, our faith in democracy and its fellow travelers hostage,” de Villepin wrote in Le Figaro newspaper.
Fillon has called the charges against him “entirely calculated to stop me being a candidate for the presidential election” and has ruled out stepping aside.
But defections from his team and calls from senior Republicans for ex-premier Alain Juppe, 71, to replace him have underlined divisions in his camp.
A member of the veteran Juppe’s entourage said March 3 that the former prime minister was ready to step in as the conservative presidential candidate if the 62-year-old Fillon decides to pull out.
The spokesman for Fillon announced on March 3 that he is leaving the campaign, the latest in a growing list of defectors.
“I’ve decided to end my duties as Francois Fillon’s spokesman,” Thierry Solere said on his Twitter account as Fillon battles to save his campaign while facing charges in a fake jobs scandal.
Already gone from Fillon’s campaign are two deputy directors, the treasurer and his foreign affairs spokesman.
“The French people back me,” Fillon insisted March 2. “The base is holding.”
New polls suggest Fillon is in third place and would win 19-20 percent in the first round of the election on April 23, behind centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.