Francois Fillon has confirmed that he will stay in the race for the French presidential election following a rally he said proved his legitimacy as candidate. Taking a jab at the Republican Party establishment's pressure for hism to step aside, he exclaimed "I am innocent, no one has the power to force me to step down, it’s my decision." While his odds of victory remain low (sub-10%), we do note Le Pen's odds dropped below 30% for the first time in six weeks.
Before Fillon's statements, Le Pen was making headlines from a “60 Minutes” interview to be aired Sunday...
“Globalization has become an ideology with no constraints. And now, nations are forcing themselves back into the debate,”
Le Pen said “wild globalization has benefited some, but it’s been a catastrophe for most,”
Le Pen was asked about her views on religion, to which she replied, “France isn’t Burkinis on the beach. France is Brigitte Bardot. That’s France.”
Le Pen, when asked about Russia being a threat to Europe, is quoted as saying, “I don’t believe that at all. I think that’s a big scam”
As these headlines hit, Francois Fillon told a France 2 television interviewer - hours after a large rally in Paris - that “no one can prevent me from being a candidate,” he said. “Any change so close to the election is necessarily doomed to fail.”
He won’t pull out before the April 23 first-round vote and no one can force him to, he said on France 2 television Sunday evening, hours after a rally near the Eiffel Tower in which the conservative candidate told thousands of cheering supporters that potential charges of embezzlement against him were “unfair.” At the rally, Bloomberg reports that he reiterated that he had committed an error by employing his wife as a parliamentary aide and that he bore his share of responsibility. He said he was resisting pressure to quit because of support from those who had given him a wide victory in the November Republicans party primary.
“The choice is yours, and that of your votes,” he said as people waved French flags. “It will be that of all of France if we are capable of the ultimate effort.”
“He’s arm-wrestling with his party leaders,” said Yves-Marie Cann, political research director at Elabe polling firm. “His bet to use the rally as a showcase for his legitimacy succeeded. I can hardly picture him saying he’s quitting after such a show.”
But despite his own estimates that the crowd at his rally was 200,000 strong (about 35,000 to 40,000 attended the rally, according to police sources cited by BFM), embattled candidate Francois Fillon continued to lose support in France's presidential election campaign, according to an opinion poll released on Sunday which showed that fellow conservative Alain Juppe would reach the second round should he replace him.
In the In the latest Kantar Sofres poll conduted March 2-4, and released Sunday by Le Figaro shows French conservative candidate Francois Fillon with just 17% of the vote, down 3 percentage points from a poll conducted last month, a score that would eliminate him from the contest. National Front leader and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron would go on to contest the second round on 26 and 25 percent respectively, according to the survey of 1,027 people.
However, under a scenario where Juppe were to stand in Fillon's place, a shift some speculate is imminent, the ex-prime minister would take Macron's place in the run-off, with 24.5 percent to Le Pen's 27 percent. The flip would put Macron on just 20%, making him ineligible for the 2nd round.
Notably, following Fillon's statements, Juppe announced, via Twitter, that he would make a press announcement tomorrow morning at 1030am.