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French presidential candidate François Fillon interrupted his election campaign on Wednesday amid media reports the former prime minister has been called to appear before investigative judges probing allegations of misuse of state funds when he employed his wife as a parliamentary assistant.

The conservative politician’s campaign team gave no reason for the sudden cancellation of Wednesday’s appearance at the Salon d’Agriculture farm fair in Paris, but said he is expected to speak at his campaign headquarters later in the day.

Journal du Dimanche newspaper reported he had been summoned by investigating magistrates.

Mr Fillon, who won his Republican party’s primary last year, was the early front runner in the presidential race before the embezzlement allegations appeared in Le Canard Enchaîné, the satirical weekly, in January.

Last week, state prosecutors said they were handing over responsibility for the case to investigative magistrates to open a formal investigation, which, given the lengthy procedure involved, means charges are unlikely before the run-off round of the election on May 7.

Since the allegations first surfaced, the 62-year-old former prime minister has fallen in the polls from frontrunner to third place, behind Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old centrist candidate.

Marine Le Pen, the far right leader, is almost certain to make it to the second round with a predicted 26 per cent of the votes in the first round on April 23.

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