Former French PM Alain Juppe has no intention to replace under-fire presidential hopeful Francois Fillon, despite pressure to do so.
Francois Fillon has denied allegations that members of his family were paid taxpayers’ money for fictitious jobs.
He has lost support within the center-right party and in opinion polls ahead of the first round of voting in April.
Alain Juppe, seen as his most likely replacement, attacked his rival’s “obstinacy” but said he would not run.
According to opinion polls, Alain Juppe would have progressed into the second round of the election. Francois Fillon is not projected to make it past the first round.
They have been rumbling on for more than a month now – and the longer they have gone on, the more Francois Fillon has dug in (seemingly at the expense of his own chances of the presidency).
The former prime minister has fought allegations that his Welsh-born wife, Penelope, was paid for a number of years for work that she did not do as his parliamentary assistant.
However, Penelope Fillon, who insists she did work for her husband, told French magazine Journal du Dimanche last week that “everything was legal and declared”.
Also under scrutiny are claims that two of Francois Fillon’ children, Marie and Charles, were paid by their father’s office for legal work even though they had not yet qualified as lawyers.
At a mass rally in Paris on March 5, Francois Fillon told tens of thousands of supporters, once again, that he would fight on.
However, key members of his campaign team have abandoned him and several leading Republicans have wavered in their support.
Alain Juppe, like Francois Fillon a former prime minister, did not hold back against any of the leading candidates on March 6.
However, he reserved his angriest comments for Francois Fillon, whose talk of a plot, and criticism of judges and the media, “has led him into a dead-end”.
“What a waste,” he said.
The pressure on Francois Fillon is likely to grow next week, when he is due to appear before a judge to be placed under formal investigation for embezzlement.
In the short-term, Francois Fillon’s party will hold a unity summit on March 6, a meeting he has been urged to attend.
His drop in favorability and Alain Juppe’s decision look like clearing the way for the young centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron to battle it out against Marine Le Pen in the second round. Polls give him a clear edge over the National Front candidate.
A big question mark now hangs over former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Defeated in the first Republican primary by Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon, he had called for an emergency meeting between the three of them.