Blamed by his fellow Republican party members for the defeat in the first round of the elections because of his corruption scandals, French conservative Francois Fillon announced he would step back from any role ahead of parliamentary elections in June.

Only five months ago,  Fillon, a 63-year-old former prime minister, had been seen as a shoo-in to become the next president of France. It has been a dramatic fall from grace, since the moment he was hit by allegations that he was paying his wife and children from public funds for work they had not properly carried out.

“I no longer have the legitimacy to lead,” Mr Fillon told a crisis meeting of The Republicans’ executive committee a day after leading the party to its most humiliating defeat in half a century.

The allegations, which he denied, dented his credibility as he was proposing to implement economic shock therapy of slashing public sector jobs and workers’ rights, and his ratings tumbled.

He was placed under formal investigation but resisted pressure from within the party to give up his candidacy as he had promised, finally coming third with less than 20 percent of the vote.

In a statement after a meeting of The Republicans’ leadership, Fillon said the elections were his party’s next challenge and he was certain it would fare well.

But he said he would not be part of it. It was not clear whether he planned to continue as a parliamentary deputy.

“This battle is now in your hands,” he told party workers. I no longer have the credibility to fight on your side.

“I will now become a simple party activist again. I will have to think about a different life.”

Fillon remains under investigation over charges of misappropriation of public funds.