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French conservative candidate asks prosecutors to drop investigations

Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon
Frederic Stevens | Getty
Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon

France's conservative presidential hopeful has asked prosecutors to drop investigations into misused public funds arguing they do not have the competency to undertake the task.

Francois Fillon, the conservative presidential candidate, has allegedly paid his wife and two of his children public money for work they did not do. The allegations have significantly damaged his chances of becoming France's next president just a couple of months away before voters head to the polls.

"We restate that the investigation is in violation with the competency rules of the financial Prosecutor office and, more seriously, with the principle of separation of powers," Fillon's lawyers said in a statement on Thursday.

Fillion's standing in opinion polls has stumbled as the allegations emerged about three weeks ago. He was expected to beat far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the second round of voting.

Now, he seems to have given that place in the second round to Emmanuel Macron, a former economy minister running as an independent.

This has raised concerns among members of the conservative party. According to Reuters, a conservative lawmaker Georges Fenech told French media that voters do not want to support Les Republicans anymore.

"There are other people in our party who are respectable, young and have the capacity to run the country," Fenech said, hinting that Fillon should perhaps be replaced.

However, it is perhaps too early to remove Fillon from the race to the Elysee.

"Fillon is still the safe bet," Claus Vistesen, chief euro zone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, told CNBC on Thursday over the phone.

"He is taking a tougher stance on immigration," Vistesen noted, saying that Fillon is trying to position himself in a way that he gets some of the voters that are inclined to support the far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

The latest opinion polls indicate a 26 percent victory for Le Pen in the first round, followed by Macron with 22 percent of the votes and Fillon in third place with 21 percent. The first round is about 10 weeks away and the small margins between the candidates make the French presidential election hard to predict.


-- CNBC's Marion Lory contributed to this report.

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