Paris mayor asks Fil­lon to can­cel rally as pres­i­den­tial hope­ful’s woes grow

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY ELAINE GAN­LEY

paris — French pres­i­den­tial can­di­date François Fil­lon, fight­ing for po­lit­i­cal sur­vival, called on sup­port­ers Satur­day not to “ab­di­cate” to those try­ing to de­stroy him as the So­cial­ist mayor of Paris asked Fil­lon to can­cel a sched­uled rally that would be a test of his stay­ing power.

In a speech Satur­day, the con­ser­va­tive Fil­lon, whose cam­paign has been un­rav­el­ing over im­pend­ing cor­rup­tion charges, vowed to re­make France. The speech came a day be­fore what amounts to his last stand.

He will hold a rally Sun­day near the Eif­fel Tower, an event widely seen as a way to mea­sure sup­port via the num­bers he can muster. In a video tweeted Fri­day, Fil­lon called on his sup­port­ers to show up.

Fil­lon, once the leader in polls, is in­creas­ingly alone as back­ers de­fect. Two cam­paign heavy­weights, cam­paign di­rec­tor Pa­trick Ste­fanini and cam­paign spokesman Thierry Solère, de­serted the Fil­lon team Fri­day — although the di­rec­tor promised to stay on un­til the end of the rally.

Paris Mayor Anne Hi­dalgo tweeted that the event “en­dan­gers” French val­ues, claim­ing its real goal is to demon­strate against in­ves­tiga­tive judges, po­lice and jour­nal­ists “bring­ing to light the truth.”

“Our ties to lib­erty force us to de­nounce this rally as a grave act of moral and po­lit­i­cal fail­ure, con­trary to our val­ues,” Hi­dalgo’s tweet said, not­ing that the event was be­ing held at the Es­planade of Hu­man Rights.

She was not the first to de­nounce the rally, with which a group linked to an ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal move­ment, Com­mon Sense, has “as­so­ci­ated” it­self.

Fi­nan­cial pros­e­cu­tors are in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions that Fil­lon gave his wife and two of their chil­dren tax­payer-funded jobs as his par­lia­men­tary aides, jobs whose func­tions they al­legedly never per­formed. Fil­lon ini­tially said that he would step down if charged but de­cided to main­tain his can­di­dacy even though he has been sum­moned to face charges March 15.

His fam­ily mem­bers were paid more than 1 mil­lion eu­ros ($1.1 mil­lion) over a num­ber of years for work as his par­lia­men­tary aides. It is le­gal in France to hire rel­a­tives for pub­lic jobs, if they ac­tu­ally work. Fil­lon has pro­claimed his in­no­cence, in­sist­ing his wife and chil­dren worked for their pay.

Fil­lon is not the only can­di­date in the sights of ju­di­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen is at the cen­ter of sev­eral ju­di­cial in­quiries along with her anti-im­mi­gra­tion Na­tional Front party, but un­like Fil­lon, she has re­fused a sum­mons to ap­pear be­fore in­ves­tiga­tive judges Fri­day in a case con­cern­ing her aides in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment.

And un­like Fil­lon, Le Pen has not suf­fered in polls. She and in­de­pen­dent cen­trist Em­manuel Macron hold first and sec­ond place in re­cent sur­veys.

In his speech on Satur­day, Fil­lon called lib­erty the guid­ing force of his plat­form, meant to un­lock new en­ergy, risk-tak­ing and a new mind-set for the French, re­duc­ing the role of the state and mak­ing suc­cess a value.

Fil­lon wants to slash 500,000 civil-ser­vice jobs, re­duce by a to­tal of 50 bil­lion eu­ros taxes and charges for small busi­nesses, shops and farm­ers, “sig­nif­i­cantly” re­duce taxes for com­pa­nies and end the 35-hour work­week, along with other mea­sures.

“In the first three months, we’ ll have cre­ated a pos­i­tive shock and launched the pow­er­ful dy­namic fa­vor­ing em­ploy­ment,” he said.

Fil­lon’s party, the Repub­li­cans, mean­while, said it was hold­ing a meet­ing of its po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tee on Mon­day evening to eval­u­ate the sit­u­a­tion af­ter Sun­day’s rally. With the two-round pres­i­den­tial elec­tion set for April 23 and May 7, time is of the essence for Fil­lon and his party, which would need to find a new can­di­date should Fil­lon de­cide, or be forced, to step down.

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