PARIS, March 3 A planned demonstration in
support of Francois Fillon will be an "important moment" in
France's presidential race, a lawmaker backing the scandal-hit
candidate said, and will go ahead on Sunday in defiance of the
sitting president's wishes.
Fillon this week promised to fight "to the end" despite a
deepening financial scandal that he said will see him placed
under formal investigation later this month. He complained of
judicial and media bias that amounted to a "political
The former prime minister's attacks have drawn criticism
from President Francois Hollande who said late on Thursday that
the rally near a central Paris square dedicated to human rights
should not go ahead.
"You will see there will be tens of thousands," said
conservative senator Bruno Retailleau on Europe 1 radio.
"Sunday will be an important date, an important moment."
Allegations that Fillon paid his wife hundreds of thousands
of euros in taxpayers' money for work she may not have done have
damaged his reputation as an honest politician and blown the
one-time election favourite's campaign badly off course.
Opinion polls show far-right leader Marine Le Pen and
independent centrist challenger Emmanuel Macron as the
frontrunners, with the former investment banker and ex-economy
minister favourite to win a runoff vote.
Fillon this week repeated his denials of wrongdoing and has
stepped up his attacks against the judiciary.
"I have been singled out by the judicial system. It's as if
I had to be brought down at all costs," he said in an interview
with the newspaper Midi Libre on Thursday.
His attacks and sliding popularity have caused some of his
key supporters to abandon his campaign.
Hollande, on a visit to Corsica on Thursday, called for
responsibility from the Fillon camp and the demonstration to be
"We can't have demonstrations in our country, in our
Republic, that question our institutions, the work of the
judiciary or of the police in the course of an inquiry," the
The demonstration was organised after Fillon revealed he
would be put under formal investigation, but organisers have
since said it is in support of his candidacy and is not an
attack on the judiciary.
(Reporting by Andrew Callus; editing by Richard Lough)