Europe

Fillon France election: Candidate's wife Penelope says she did work

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Media captionIs Fillon finished in presidential race?

The wife of French presidential candidate Francois Fillon has said that she did carry out parliamentary work for him, for which she was paid.

"He needed someone that carried out his tasks," Penelope Fillon told a newspaper, rejecting allegations she was paid without actually working.

As calls mount for him to quit, he is due to attend a big rally near the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday.

His Republican party has brought forward crisis talks to Monday.

The former prime minister has seen his popularity slip in opinion polls.

'Go all the way'

"If it hadn't been me, he would have paid someone else to do it, so we decided that it would be me," Mrs Fillon told French magazine Journal du Dimanche (in French). "Everything was legal and declared."

Mrs Fillon said that she has repeatedly told her husband to "go all the way" but said that the final decision would be down to him.

She urged supporters of her husband to get behind him in his presidential campaign and not to give up.

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Image caption Francois Fillon's wife Penelope says she has urged her husband to "continue until the end"

Speaking to supporters in Paris on Saturday as he marked his 63rd birthday, Mr Fillon said that those attacking him over his presidential bid were "trying to kill a desire for change".

The latest opinion polls suggest that he would be eliminated in the first round of presidential election voting on 23 April, with far-right leader Marine Le Pen and liberal Emmanuel Macron likely to progress to contest the election run-off on 7 May.

A survey published in Journal du Dimanche (in French) suggests that 71% of those polled want Mr Fillon to step down.

In another blow to Mr Fillon's campaign, his spokesman announced on Friday that he was quitting.

Thierry Solere's resignation is one of a slew of notable departures, including the campaign treasurer on Thursday.

Mr Fillon's woes have raised speculation that Alain Juppe, also a former prime minister, could return to the race if he were to pull out.

Mr Juppe was overwhelmingly defeated by Mr Fillon in the Republicans' primary in November, securing only 33% of the vote to Mr Fillon's 66%.

Sources close to Mr Juppe said he would be prepared to step in, but only with the unanimous support of the party and only if Mr Fillon were to go voluntarily.

Mr Fillon has so far said he has no intention of stepping down despite the continuing haemorrhage of allies.

For weeks he has fought allegations that his wife was paid for a number of years for work she did not do as his parliamentary assistant.

More than 60 politicians have said they can no longer support him.

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