French conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon is defending his past conduct in a scandal involving payments to his wife for work which a press report says she did not do, and says he will push on in his bid for the presidency. Mia Womersley reports.
PARIS, FRANCE / LYON, FRANCE (REUTERS / EN MARCHE / BFMTV POOL) – He says he has nothing to hide.
And Francois Fillon made it clear that he is determined to push on in his bid for the French presidency.
Defying calls from within the party to step aside.
The right wing candidate launching a counter-attack on Monday (February 6).
His campaign is in turmoil after media reports claimed his wife Penelope was paid hundreds of thousands of euros in state money for work she may never have done.
(SOUNDBITE) FRENCH CONSERVATIVE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, FRANCOIS FILLON, SAYING:
“Work with relatives in politics is a practice which is now being rejected by the French. What was acceptable yesterday isn’t anymore today. By working with my wife and my children I favoured this collaboration of trust which today creates distrust. It was a mistake, which I deeply regret, and I apologise to the French people.”
But the former Prime Minister did insist the salary was entirely justified, adding that he sees no reason to reimburse the money.
The devout Catholic and father of five had campaigned on the basis that he is an honest politician.
Polls show the 62-year-old former prime minister has lost his status as favourite to win the spring election.
Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron overtaking him and far-right leader Marine Le Pen also seen gaining ground.
Fillon now expected to come third in the first round – and therefore being knocked out of the race.