PARIS — Conservative candidate Francois Fillon refused to quit France’s roller coaster presidential race Wednesday despite receiving a summons to face charges of getting his wife and children taxpayer-funded jobs in which they allegedly did no work.
Calling the judicial investigation a ‘‘political assassination,’’ Fillon urged his supporters to ‘‘resist’’ and said he would leave it up to French voters to decide his fate. He was once a front-runner in the presidential election race, but Fillon’s chances have slipped since the probe began in January.
Cracks started to emerge in Fillon’s Republicans party hours after his announcement, with the resignation of a top ally. But it’s unclear whether Fillon’s decision will dramatically alter the electoral landscape, since the polls are dominated now by far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist independent candidate Emmanuel Macron.
The top two presidential vote-getters in France’s April 23 ballot will head to a presidential runoff on May 7.
Fillon held an emergency party meeting Wednesday after receiving the legal summons and postponed a campaign stop, prompting media speculation that he could quit the race.
‘‘I will not surrender,’’ he told reporters at his headquarters later. ‘‘I will not withdraw.’’
Fillon denied all allegations and said legal procedures were not properly followed in the probe, which he called unprecedented and unacceptable during a presidential election campaign. He said he was summoned for questioning on March 15 ‘‘with the goal of being given preliminary charges.’’
Fillon’s comments prompted a strong reaction from French President Francois Hollande, who said Fillon has no right to cast suspicion over the work done by police and judges or ‘‘create a climate of mistrust incompatible with the spirit of responsibility and, even worse, to throw extremely serious accusations against justice and, more broadly, our institutions.’’