France’s embattled conservative presidential contender, Francois Fillon, says that he will be staying in the race till the bitter end, bucking calls to drop out over a nepotism scandal which has seen his poll numbers plummet. Reuters:
Conservative French presidential candidate Francois Fillon said on Friday he would stay in the race come what may, after saying for weeks that he would step down if he were put under formal investigation over his wife’s employment. […]
Fillon told daily Le Figaro he had wanted the justice system to work quickly during the campaign, but that the court is continuing the investigation and that it would be scandalous to deprive the right and center of a candidate.
“My decision is clear: I am a candidate and I will continue until victory,” he told Le Figaro in an interview.
As we noted last week, Fillon’s apparently stubborn decision to stay in the race is far from illogical. There is no easy mechanism to replace him as his party’s candidate, and the contours of the race have shifted so many times already that the public could come back around on the former frontrunner.
Fillon appears to be making some adjustments to reboot his campaign, placing a renewed emphasis on security and making overtures to quell the rebellion within his party. It remains to be seen whether such gestures will pay off. He recently paid a visit to former President Nikolas Sarkozy for advice and support, for instance, but after a bruising primary battle where Fillon trounced his former boss, reports of the closed-doors meeting suggest that Sarkozy will only publicly back Fillon on the condition that he appoint a Sarkozy loyalist to the campaign.
Fillon still has a shot at the big prize, but it is a steep climb. Marine Le Pen has lately been rising in the polls, while Emmanuel Macron, the independent candidate who has most benefitted from Fillon’s woes, remains popular despite recent controversies, including a recent spat over France’s colonial past in Algeria that has alienated many on the right. The next few weeks should give a good indication of whether Fillon can capitalize on such controversies and turn his ship around, or whether clinging on at this stage is an exercise in futility.