March 6, 2017 / 5:49 PM / 6 months ago

France's Fillon calls on party to unite around him

Francois Fillon, former French prime minister, member of the Republicans political party and 2017 presidential election candidate of the French centre-right reacts after delivering a speech in front of small business leaders in Puteaux, France, March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - Francois Fillon urged his conservative party on Monday to rally around him, saying he was the only legitimate candidate despite calls by many in his camp for him to pull out of the French presidential race over allegations of misuse of public funds.

“It is time for everybody to get their act together and come back to their senses,” he told senior party members gathered to discuss the crisis, according to a text.

Fillon, who overwhelmingly won primaries organized by The Republicans party and their allies in November, added: “I call on all the women and men of goodwill to rally, respect the message our voters sent during the primaries and unite behind my candidacy, which is the only legitimate one.”

Earlier on Monday, Alain Juppe, another former prime minister, ruled out replacing the scandal-hit Fillon in the coming election but offered no alternative candidates, leaving conservative heavyweights scrambling to find a way to get their party back in the race.

Reporting by Sophie Louet; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Adrian Croft

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