PARIS: Police raided the Paris home of French rightwing presidential candidate Francois Fillon on Thursday over an alleged fake job scandal as a senior party colleague warned him he risked dragging his party “into an abyss.”
Fillon revealed Wednesday he is set to be charged over allegations he paid his wife and children hundreds of thousands of euros for fake parliamentary jobs, but has vowed to continue his bid for power.
After searches at his parliamentary office last month, police raided his home in a central area of Paris as he visited winegrowers on the campaign trial in southern France.
The raid “finished several hours ago,” a source in Fillon’s campaign team told AFP, confirming information reported first by Le Parisien newspaper.
Fillon was accused by Dominique de Villepin, another former prime minister from his Republicans party, of driving the right wing “into the abyss” with his defiance.
“Going down this dead-end street is taking the state, our faith in democracy and its fellow travellers hostage,” he wrote in Le Figaro newspaper.
Fillon has called the charges over the fake jobs scandal “entirely calculated to stop me being a candidate for the presidential election” and has ruled out making way for another candidate.
But defections from his team and calls from senior Republicans for ex-premier Alain Juppe, 71, to step up have underlined the divisions and fears in his camp.
“The French people back me,” Fillon told journalists defiantly. “The base is holding.”
New polls published suggested Fillon was in third place and would win 19-20 percent in the first round of the election scheduled for April 23, behind centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Thousands still turned out to his rally in the town of Nimes and Fillon’s calculation appears to be that he can close the small gap on his rivals in the remaining two months.
The top two from the first round proceed to a run-off on May 7, which Macron is currently shown winning.
But analysts warn against firm forecasts after a rollercoaster campaign so far.