Francois Fillon on Monday defied mounting pressure to pull out of France’s presidential race, saying that he is the only candidate who can turn around France.
In a press conference aimed at addressing the growing scandal over accusations that his family received public funds for work they did not do, Mr Fillon, the centre-right nominee, said the allegations are baseless and that everything was legal and transparent.
While he stressed that it is legal in France for parliamentarians to employ family members as aides, he also acknowledged that the system might be in need of an overhaul.
“What is acceptable yesterday might no longer be acceptable today….and it is clear that the people of France no longer want this,” he said. “It was an error and I am sorry and I apologise to the people of France. But in this case, let’s reform the system. Let’s begin the debate on this.”
Mr Fillon has been knocked by two weeks of revelations in Le Canard Enchaîné, the satirical newspaper, alleging that his British wife Penelope received more than €800,000 of taxpayers’ money for a fake aide role. Mr Fillon has denied the allegations, saying he is the victim of a “professional” plot.
Still, state prosecutors opened a preliminary inquiry into misuse of state funds last week. The Fillons were questioned by the fraud office, and a series of new claims followed, including those about similar payments to his two children.
On Monday Mr Fillon said he has nothing to hide and that he will publish his wife’s salaries as well as disclose all his assets.
He also reiterated his claim that the revelations was nothing short of an “institutional coup” against him.
“Despite all of this, the truth is the majority of the French people on the right want me to carry out my promise of “rupture”. Because the majority does not want to have to choose between Mr [Jean-Luc] Mélenchon and Ms [Marie] Le Pen,” he said referring to the far-left and far-right presidential candidates.