Seven out of 10 French voters want conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon to step down, an opinion poll by Odoxa for France Info radio said on Friday as a scandal over alleged “fake work” by his wife continued to weigh on his campaign.
The poll also found that 74 percent of people had a bad opinion of the 62 year-old former prime minister, and that even among rightwing voters 53 percent want him replaced.
Fillon has apologised to the French people over the way hundreds of thousands of euros in taxpayers’ money were paid to his wife over many years, but has said the work she did was genuine and that he did nothing illegal.
He has vowed to continue his campaign, despite losing his position as favourite to centrist rival Emmanuel Macron. He has decried the affair as a plot by his political opponents and his lawyers are contesting the legitimacy of an official investigation into the affair.
The election is due to take place in April.
Fillon was elected to stand for his The Republicans party in a November primary.
He beat off the challenge of better-known candidates to win with a big majority of rightwing voters, standing on a platform of his clean judicial record and presenting himself as a rare honest man in politics who would cut back on government spending.
His popularity, and his showing in polls of voting intentions, has slumped in the two weeks since the scandal broke.
On Thursday, another poll showed his popularity rating had slid to 18th place from third. Macron held onto his first place.
The original allegations were made in the satirical weekly le Canard Enchaine on Jan 24 and the saga has been front page news ever since.
Thursday’s edition of the weekly L’Obs magazine showed a mocked-up photograph of Fillon wearing a classic 17th century wig and titled ‘Tartuffe’ – the name of a play from the era about a hypocrite by the French playwrite Moliere.
Opinion polls show Fillon coming in third in the first round of voting on April 23, behind Macron by a few percentage points, and with far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen coming first.
The French electoral system puts the top two candidates from the first round into a runoff against each other. Polls show either Macron or Fillon winning that comfortably.