France's Macron unveils programme as Fillon warned of 'abyss'

France's Macron unveils programme as Fillon warned of 'abyss'

Sunday's planned demonstration has anxious some within the party that it will be hijacked by hardline conservative movements and several heavyweight party officials have said they will not attend.

Fillon's claim that his campaign was being targeted in order to sink it drew indignation from President Francois Hollande, who said the candidate had no right to "create a climate of throw extremely serious accusations at justice and, more broadly, our institutions".

"Everywhere, from Donald Trump's America, to Narendra Modi's India, from Xi Jinping's China to Theresa May's United Kingdom, economic patriotism is prevailing", she said.

File- Embattled French presidential candidate Francois Fillon said Wednesday, March 1, 2017, he will persevere in the race despite an ongoing inquiry into allegations that he paid his wife and children for work they did not do.

Scores of allies have turned against Fillon, and veteran politician Alain Juppe, 71, is at the ready to take over as the conservative standardbearer if he throws in the towel.

- How did Fillon handle the scandal?

An aide to Juppé told POLITICO that contrary to media reports suggesting he wasn't excited at the prospect of running in the election after losing badly in November, the Bordeaux mayor and former prime minister was "warming up" to the idea.

Opinion polls continue to show he would fail to make the second round of the April/May election, however.

Ms Le Pen has consistently topped polls for the first round of voting although it is thought her opponent would be able to unify opposition against her in the decider.

Fillon said on Wednesday that the case was a "political assassination" and even spoke of an "institutional coup" to prevent him from being president.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen wants to pull France out of the European Union and eurozone, and there has been growing anti-EU sentiment in many countries since Britain's vote to leave.

However, cracks within his own party quickly appeared, as one of his campaign officials, Bruno Le Maire, bowed out without hours, saying he can't follow a man who won't honor his word to withdraw if charged.

"The society I want will be both free of constraints and blockages and protective of the weakest", Macron said as he unveiled his manifesto, which also included pledges to sell down government stakes in major firms and downsize parliament.

It is unclear whether prosecutors will take legal action against Le Pen before this year's presidential elections, which are held in two rounds in April and May. Knocking off extreme-right candidate Marine Le Pen from the first place in the first round is a first.

He has capitalised on it heavily, unveiling a string of policies to clean up French politics including a ban on MPs employing family members.

Juppe would have 26.5 per cent of votes, giving him a narrow lead over Macron on 25 per cent, while Le Pen would slip to third place on 24 per cent, according to the Odoxa-Dentsu Consulting poll of 943 people.

"Not to be confused with the National Front".