Conservative François Fillon is a former French prime minister seeking a return to power for the mainstream centre right after a five year hiatus from national politics.
He began as one of the leading lights of the 2017 French presidential race, yet his Les Républicains campaign has been hit by claims he paid family members for parliamentary jobs they allegedly never performed.
As the French gear up to go to the polls, here's everything you need to know about the Thatcher-loving 63-year-old as he struggles to survive the race.
Starting out as a disciple of Philippe Séguin, a Gaullist and anything but a Thatcherite, Mr Fillon worked his way up the echelons of French government from his power base in the Sarthe region some 200km west of Paris. It is here that he and his Welsh wife Penelope brought up their five children in a stunning 12th century chateau, le manoir de Beaucé.
After various spells in the governments of Edouard Balladur and Jacques Chirac, where he notably stood down major street protests in 2003 to impose pension reforms, Mr Fillon forged an unlikely alliance with Mr Sarkozy, when he was denied a post in a Chirac reshuffle.
Mr Fillon toiled to draw up the programme that helped Mr Sarkozy win the 2007 presidential election and was made prime minister for his efforts.
However once in office, he had to endure being sidelined as the "hyperpresident" Sarkozy called all the shots, famously dismissing his prime minister as a "collaborateur" (employee).
When Mr Sarkozy lost in 2012, Mr Fillon left the prime minister's office literally a broken man, with such bad back problems he could barely walk.
He became MP of the wealthy 7th arrondissement and then stunned colleagues by launching his bid for presidential primaries.
What does he want?
An Anglophile who admires Margaret Thatcher Mr Fillon has called for a quick Brexit.
He has described France as “bankrupt” and has pledged to slash the number of state workers by up to 500,000 in five years to fund €40bn in tax breaks for companies and slashing state spending.
Mr Fillon takes a hard line against Islamist terrorism and has even published a book called Beating Islamic Totalitarianism.
He is seen as embodying the values of provincial conservative France and has the backing of Right-wing Catholics, many of whom are opposed to gay marriage. He wants a rapprochement with Russia to protect Christians of the Middle East.
Why is he being investigated?
Mr Fillon has been charged over accusations he gave his wife a fake parliamentary job for which she was paid hundreds of thousands of euros.
Mr Fillon has claimed his leftwing opponents are behind the accusations against him, which first emerged in the Canard Enchaine newspaper in January.
The charges have crippled his campaign and have deeply damaged his Republicans party. Both him and his wife are being investigated.
Can he win?
Mr Fillon is hoping his long-standing support among farmers, observant Catholics and the finance world will be enough to push him into the runoff, although it's looking unlikely.
His ratings have have tumbled since the fake jobs allegations emerged and he is now trailing in third place in the election first round, according to opinion polls, which would mean elimination.