The presidential bid of embattled French conservative Francois Fillon hit new trouble Friday after his spokesman announced he is leaving the campaign.
“I’ve decided to end my duties as Francois Fillon’s spokesman,” Thierry Solere said on his Twitter account.
Fillon is battling to save his campaign while facing charges in a fake jobs scandal.
The candidate revealed this week he is to be charged over allegations he paid his British-born wife hundreds of thousands of euros to work as his parliamentary assistant, even though little evidence can be found of the work she is supposed to have done.
Police raided the Fillons’ Paris residence on Thursday.
In a campaign rally in Nimes in southern France the same day, Fillon said, “My life has been put to the test in recent weeks” and is being “dissected” because of the jobs allegations.
He denied wrongdoing in the case. “Standing before you is a fighter,” he told the cheering crowd.
A member of the veteran Alain Juppe’s entourage said Friday that the former prime minister was ready to step in as the conservative presidential candidate if the 62-year-old Fillon decides to pull out.
Juppe, 71, “will not refuse if all the conditions are met — Francois Fillon has to take the decision to pull out himself and the rightwing and center camps… have to be united behind him”, the source said.
Already gone from Fillon’s campaign are two deputy directors, the treasurer and his foreign affairs spokesman.
According to an Odoxa poll, centrist Emmanuel Macron would come top in the first round of France’s presidential election ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the first to show Macron with a first-round lead.
The former economy minister would win 27 percent of the vote in the April 23 first round followed by Le Pen at 25.5, leaving Fillon eliminated at 19 percent, the poll showed.
However, if Fillon withdrew, then fellow conservative Juppe would get first place with 26.5 percent of the vote if he ran.
In that scenario, Macron would just barely make it to a May 7 runoff against Juppe, edging out Le Pen with 25 percent of the vote to 24 percent for her.