François Fillon’s involvement in an employment scandal has his supporters on edge as the looming threat of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, and the presidential election itself, draw closer. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel.
The campaign of Republican candidate François Fillon continues to rock in the wake of revelations that showed he paid his wife, Penelope, around half a million euros for work it is alleged she never actually did.
Added to this was this weekend’s news that when Fillon employed his two children, Marie and Charles, during his time as a senator between 2005 and 2007, they were allegedly not qualified lawyers, only later securing their credentials.
The employment of family members by politicians is permissible under French law, and this latest blow will be easier for Fillon to shake off. But the allegations of fraudulent employment threaten to derail the until-recently presidential favourite’s campaign and a preliminary investigation has already been launched.
Fillon will only withdraw his candidacy if criminal proceedings are actually brought against him. At a mass rally in Paris yesterday (29 January), Fillon looked to reinvigorate his campaign and 15,000 people, including his spouse, gathered to hear him urge his rivals to “leave my wife alone”.
But the scandal has already eroded a significant amount of his support and the former prime minister is now only pulling in 38% of support, according to latest polls. He had topped 50% in recent weeks.
French newspaper La Dépêche du Midi cited one Fillon supporter who labelled the whole affair “a catastrophe”, adding that “there is no plan B”.
Former prime minister Alain Juppé, who Fillon bested to secure his party’s nomination, has also insisted that he does not intend to take over from Fillon should he be forced to give up the race to the Élysée Palace.
Meanwhile, fellow Republican, and former president, Nicolas Sarkozy phoned his party colleague to assure him of his continued support, according to the RTL radio station. Sarkozy was dropped early in the campaign and his ambitions to serve another term as head of state came to nought.
Until the scandal broke, Fillon was thought to be the main hope for any voters wanting to counteract the rise of far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who has already pounced on her ailing rival’s woes. She tweeted on Saturday (28 January) that his “problem, is also a problem of trust between the candidate and the French people”.
— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) January 28, 2017
But Le Pen has still remained rather restrained in her criticisms of Fillon, due mostly to the fact that her own party is still mired in a corruption affair in which the European Parliament has told the National Front to return €340,000 in funding that was used to employee aides that worked exclusively on party rather than EU business.