Francois Fillon To Be Summoned Over 'Fake Work' Scandal

Fillon says not to quit French presidential race despite probe

Analysts have said either Mr Macron or far-right candidate Marine le Pen are best placed to benefit from Mr Fillon's woes.

Under French law, the maximum penalty for distributing violent images is three years in prison and a fine of up to €75,000 (£64,000).

Another poll, by Odoxa, on Friday showed Macron finishing ahead of Le Pen in the opening round.

The anti-EU, anti-immigration candidate also faces a separate parliamentary expenses investigation and a campaign financing probe in France - all of which she, like Fillon, denounces as a plot to thwart her bid for power. Her lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, told BFM TV she is not obstructing justice but "a form of injustice", with the election around the corner.

In announcing their departures, some said the campaign was "incompatible" with their political vision - while others expressed dismay that Mr Fillon has reneged on his promise to step down if he was charged.

The meeting will take place on March 10.

Fillon was the frontrunner until mid-January when the Canard Enchaine newspaper alleged he paid his British-born wife Penelope and two of their children almost €900,000 (US$950,000) as parliamentary assistants or advisers.

A key ally Bruno Le Maire resigned as his adviser on global affairs right after the statement, saying the candidate had gone back on his word to withdraw from the election if he was placed under formal investigation.

Centrist French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron says the remaining 27 European Union members must vigorously defend their single market in talks with Britain on its exit.

Within hours, his foreign affairs spokesman Bruno Le Maire had quit the campaign, saying that he believed in "standing by what one has said", calling it "indispensable to political credibility". A host of polls show the National Front candidate winning the first of France's two-tiered presidential election.

Juppe, a former prime minister who was sentenced to a suspended jail sentence in 2004 over a party funding scandal, was beaten by Fillon in the conservative primary in November.

As the most pro-EU candidate for the election, he wants to reform the French economy to make it closer to Germany's, and reduce the deficits as required by the EU.

Macron lays out his platform Thursday on an upswing, as pressure mounts on conservative rival Francois Fillon, facing charges that he arranged taxpayer-funded jobs for his family that they never performed.

One opinion poll on Friday showed that Juppe - who is viewed as more centrist than Fillon - would be catapulted into the lead if he took over.

A growing number of MPs in Fillon's Republicains party are stunned by the fact he went back on his promise made live on TV on January 26th that if charged he would step down.

Macron, a 39-year-old who only launched his political movement "En Marche" ("On the Move") last April, is now shown as the victor of a run-off vote on May 7.

As part of his agenda, he vowed to end nepotism in government by preventing parliamentarians from employing their family members.

However, Le Pen, now the most popular candidate in the French presidential elections but unlikely to win a second round vote under France's electoral system, is unlikely to be hurt politically by any investigation.