The Latest: France's Fillon: 'No one can stop me' from race

AP News
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Posted: Mar 05, 2017 3:05 PM
The Latest: France's Fillon: 'No one can stop me' from race

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on France's presidential campaign (all times local):

9 p.m.

French conservative candidate Francois Fillon says a big rally in Paris by his supporters proved he still has the legitimacy he needs to run for president despite facing corruption charges.

Fillon, speaking on France-2 television Sunday night, says "no one can stop me today from being a candidate ... it's my decision."

His Republicans party is holding a special meeting Monday on the topic. A string of allies have defected from Fillon's campaign, angry that he is still running even though he faces impending charges.

Thousands gathered Sunday near the Eiffel Tower despite blustery weather to back Fillon, who thanked them for not giving up the fight. On France-2, Fillon called that a "demonstration that my legitimacy remains very strong."

Fillon is accused of arranging taxpayer-funded jobs for his wife and two of his children that they never performed. He agrees they were hired but insists they did the work.

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7 p.m.

Banging pots in anger, several hundred people in Paris are protesting corruption in French politics as the two leading presidential candidates face legal investigations.

Left-wing activists and other frustrated voters gathered Sunday at Place de la Republique in eastern Paris as conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon held a rally across town to try to salvage his candidacy.

Speeches at the anti-corruption demonstration were routinely interrupted by protesters banging metal spoons on cooking pots, a reference to a French expression equating pots to embarrassing scandals. The demonstration was peaceful and involved many families.

Fillon is facing preliminary charges of arranging taxpayer-funded jobs for his family that they never performed, though he denies wrongdoing. Once the front-runner in the race for France's April-May two-round presidential vote, Fillon now trails in polls behind far right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen is also facing multiple investigations.

The investigations have ignited public anger at decades of political corruption scandals in France.

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4 p.m.

French conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon is urging his supporters not to "give up the fight" for the presidency despite corruption allegations dogging him.

A crowd of thousands were chanting "Fillon, President!" at a Paris rally on Sunday seen as a test of whether he has enough backing to maintain his candidacy.

Fillon assailed the conservative allies who have abandoned his campaign, and pledged to create jobs and slash public spending to put France back on its feet.

Fillon's wife Penelope arrived with her husband at the rally. She has kept an extremely low profile since financial investigators began examining allegations that she and two of their children had taxpayer-funded jobs they never performed. Her job especially went on for years.

Fillon had been a front-runner for France's two-round April-May presidential election until the investigation began.

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3:40 p.m.

Waving French flags in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, thousands have gathered to show support for conservative Francois Fillon's troubled presidential candidacy.

The Paris rally could be Fillon's last stand, amid growing pressure on him to quit the race because of corruption allegations. Dozens of buses brought supporters from around France, while riot police stood guard around the Place de Trocadero.

Retirees Luc and Marie Houllier braved rainy, blustery weather to denounce what they see as a politically-driven investigation of taxpayer-funded jobs for Fillon's family.

Luc said "he is the only one who can raise France up again."

Fillon's chances for France's two-round April-May presidential election have fallen since the corruption allegations emerged.

Older people, who make up Fillon's most loyal voter base, constituted a large part of Sunday's crowd, along with parents of young children.

Counter-demonstrations also being held.

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11 a.m.

France's presidential campaign is facing a potential turning point as conservative candidate Francois Fillon, facing corruption charges, holds a rally that could determine whether he stays in the race.

Sunday's rally across from the Eiffel Tower is meant to gauge Fillon's remaining support after numerous defections by allies. They're disillusioned by how he has handled the investigation into allegations he arranged parliamentary jobs for his wife and children that they never performed.

Fillon's wife Penelope urged her husband to stay in the race in a newspaper interview published Sunday. They deny wrongdoing.

If Fillon quits, many conservatives want Alain Juppe to run in his place for the two-round April-May vote. Fillon was once the front-runner but polls now favor centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.