The Latest: Top French centrist candidate Macron hit by egg

AP News
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Posted: Mar 01, 2017 3:29 PM
The Latest: Top French centrist candidate Macron hit by egg

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the French presidential elections (all times local):

6:15 p.m.

France's centrist presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron, has been riding high in public opinion polls, but someone who's clearly not a fan tossed an egg at his head.

While visiting the annual Paris farm fair on Wednesday — a must stop for candidates in the spring presidential election — Macron got hit on the back of his head with an egg. The yolk dripped over his face.

Macron kept the mess in perspective.

He said: "We propose solutions, we can talk about it. We can disagree and some might throw you eggs....It's part of French political life. It always has been."

Still, the candidate, who's making his first run for elected office, said he "deplored" the egg throwing "because it doesn't elevate political dialogue."

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4:35 p.m.

French president Francois Hollande jumped to the defense of judges and police officers investigating Francois Fillon after the conservative candidate said legal procedures were not properly followed in the probe.

In a statement released by the Elysee palace, Hollande said Fillon has no right to cast suspicion over the work done by police and judges or "create a climate of mistrust incompatible with the spirit of responsibility and, even worse, to throw extremely serious accusations against justice and, more broadly, our institutions."

Fillon, who decided on Wednesday to maintain his presidential bid despite pending corruption charges, also called the investigation a "political assassination."

Fillon urged his supporters Wednesday to "resist" and said he would leave it up to the French people to decide his fate in the election.

Hollande reminded him justice is done in the name of the people, and that "no one can avoid it."

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3 p.m.

Strong disagreements are quickly emerging in France's right-wing Republicans party over its presidential candidate, Francois Fillon.

Only hours after Fillon announced Wednesday that he was staying in France's presidential race despite a corruption investigation targeting jobs he gave his wife and two children, a close ally has resigned from Fillon's campaign team.

Bruno Le Maire, who lost to Fillon in the party's primary last year, was in charge of European and international affairs within the team. Le Maire said he was not in a position to back Fillon anymore because the former prime minister backpedaled on his promise to withdraw from the presidential race if he was charged.

Fillon has not been charged but has been summoned for questioning by an investigating magistrate on March 15.

Le Maire says "I believe in keeping your word. It is vital to the credibility of politics."

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2:15 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande has ordered "all means necessary" mobilized to secure the presidential election in April and May against hacking or other attacks.

Hollande held a special defense meeting Wednesday to assess vulnerabilities in election security, saying in a statement afterward that he wants heightened efforts "so that no malevolent action can damage the campaign and the vote."

A day earlier, a police sharpshooter accidentally fired his weapon while Hollande was giving a speech.

After a new assessment of terrorist threats, Hollande said security will be heightened at campaign events and voting stations.

He said the national election commission could task the government's cybersecurity agency, ANSSI, to help if needed. The government is concerned about the risks of cyberattacks after hacking of the U.S. election and similar activity.

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2 p.m.

Denise Mermut, an 18-year-old first-time voter, was deeply unhappy with Francois Fillon's decision to maintain his candidacy.

The teenager said the right-wing candidate should have withdrawn his bid because of pending corruption charges.

"This is not normal, when you see what happens in other democratic countries in cases like this. For example in Iceland, the first minister immediately stepped down (after Panama Papers revelations)," she told the AP near the candidate's headquarters.

"Fillon should quit politics. It's shameful. But the most shameful are those who keep supporting him"

Mermut said she will vote for far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Zach El Maataoui, another youngster, was more sanguine.

"I'm not surprised. The guy just wants power. He stays in the picture. It's not going to stop him. Politicians are all scam artists," he said, adding that he would cast a blank ballot at the election.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative allies praised French presidential candidate Francois Fillon for sticking with his troubled campaign despite pending corruption charges.

Bernard Debre, speaking to reporters after Fillon's announcement Wednesday, asked, "Are we still in a democracy? Are we going to let French people express themselves in a serene atmosphere? ... He's doing the right thing."

Debre agreed with Fillon's claim that the investigation into alleged fake jobs for his family members is an effort to derail his presidential campaign.

Nadine Morano of the Republicans party said, "We should respect his choice ... even if it was not easy."

Rival candidate Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist, said it's important for investigators to do their jobs.

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12:35 p.m.

French conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon says he will not withdraw from the election despite having received a summons for fake parliamentary jobs investigation to face preliminary charges in an investigation into an alleged fake jobs scheme.

Fillon told reporters that his lawyers received the summons Wednesday. He denied all allegations and says legal procedure was not properly followed in what he called a political assassination and unprecedented probe during the election campaign for the two-round April-May election.

"I will not withdraw," he told reporters at his campaign headquarters. Fillon was once the front-runner for the two-round April-May election but his ratings have slipped because of the investigation

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11:20 a.m.

Conservative Francois Fillon's campaign for the French presidency faced new uncertainty Wednesday as he abruptly canceled a campaign stop at the country's premier farm fair and an investigation intensified into alleged fake parliamentary jobs for his family.

Fillon's campaign team gave no reason for the sudden cancellation of Wednesday's appearance at the Salon d'Agriculture, but said he is expected to speak at his campaign headquarters at midday.

Financial Prosecutor Eliane Houlette denied reports that Fillon's wife Penelope was taken in for questioning Wednesday in the jobs investigation. She would not comment on reports that the Fillons received a summons Wednesday for questioning later this month.