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France's Fillon still struggling to regain voters' approval,

PARIS, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Despite an offensive to regain voters' approval, Francois Fillon, hit by the fake job scandal, still suffered a setback with seven out of ten voters calling on the conservative contender to drop his bid, according to an Odoxa poll released on Friday.

The survey for France info radio also showed 74 percent of 1,001 interviewed people had bad opinion of the former prime minister with 79 percent said they were not convinced by his explanations over allegations that he had paid hundred thousands of euros to his wife for job she didn't really do.

Once a clear frontrunner to win presidential election, Fillon is struggling to contain the affair that threw his campaign out of the track few months ahead presidential election.

Recent polls showed him trailing in the election's first round behind Marine Le Pen, head of National Front party and centrist independent challenger Emmanuel Macron.

Despite sliding popularity and speculations about his ability to continue the race to the Elysee Palace, the 62-year-old ex-prime minister expressed "fierce determination" to stick to his presidential bid at a press meeting in Paris on Feb. 6.

He also apologized for the ethical "error" he made in hiring his wife and their two children, a practice which he said was no longer acceptable by public opinion.

Meanwhile, he affirmed that his wife had been his parliamentary assistant for 15 years and her job was "perfectly justified."

Two weeks ago, the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine broke the so called "Penelope gate" after revealing that his British-born wife Penelope Fillon had been paid 900,000 euros (958,000 U.S. dollars) for her job as a parliamentary assistant to her husband and at a culture magazine. However, there was no evidence she had really worked, the report added.

Under the French law, it's legal for lawmakers to hire family members as their assistants but it's illegal to pay them for a fictitious job.

In a counter-attack against what he called "an institutional coup d'etat," Fillon stressed "I am the only candidate which can bring about a national recovery."

Following press claims over Fillon's wife's fake job, financial prosecutor had opened a preliminary inquiry into the possible "misuse of public funds" and "misappropriation of assets."

On Thursday, defense lawyers of Fillon couple who "doubt" investigators' impartiality asked financial prosecutors to drop the inquiry into fictitious job allegations.

"We have made this request in order to preserve the interests of our clients and mainly in the name of the democratic rule of law," Antonin Levy, one of defense lawyers said.

"This investigation violates the most basic principles of the French Constitution. The financial prosecutor has no jurisdiction and its inquiry is therefore illegal," he added.

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