Wednesday, March 1, likely candidate for the French presidency from the center-right party “the Republicans” Francois Fillon announced that he had received a subpoena on March 15 and March 18. He made the statement at an emergency press conference in Paris. According to the politician, the official start of the investigation and the appointment in the case of three judges is a qualitatively new step in the ongoing scandal around it.
In late January and early February, the French weekly Canard enchaine published a series of investigations, according to which Fillon’s wife Penelope for many years worked as a helper of her husband as Deputy of the Parliament without making anything public. Financial news on February 25 announced that it has opened an official investigation on the case of the wife of Fillon. The investigation opened against “unidentified persons”, the prosecution for theft of state funds, misuse of public funds and complicity in the concealment of these crimes in violation of the law on transparency in public life.
The candidate from “Republican” denies all charges, calling the prosecution of his wife “political murder” not only himself as a candidate, but only legal government of France. “I appeal to the French people, to those who follow me and who fights for me. I’m not going to retreat, I am not going to continue the race,” said Wednesday Fillon.
The politician also noted that the selected date of the first court hearing (March 15) is not accidental, since already on 17 March will end the acceptance of applications for presidential candidates. In the case of Fillon, the French constitutional Council may refuse registration, or to postpone the election to a later date. According to the Constitution, the President or a presidential candidate can not at the inauguration to be under investigation.
The position of Fillon, who persistently refused to withdraw his candidacy, from a strategic point of view can be beneficial, said lead researcher of the Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences Sergei Fedorov. First, the expert, the Prosecutor’s office investigation may take several years, and no harm, except for reputation, campaign, Fillon is not responsible, given that the General election is two months. Second, the refusal to quit the race may be perceived by voters as the ability to take a punch. Finally, the search for a new candidate for “Republicans” under time pressure can be a fatal blow for the party, said Fyodorov.
“Lost the sense of reality”
The Minister of justice of France, Jean-Jacques Urvoy, responded to the accusations françois Fillon, stressing that the work of judges should not be discredited. According to him, investigators conduct investigations independently and jointly, in observance of the adversarial system and the presumption of innocence. On the side of the judges stood up and incumbent President of the Republic françois Hollande: “As the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary, I officially oppose any attempts to cast doubt on the work of their representatives in the course of investigations that they are in accordance with the principle of the rule of law” (quoted by RIA news).
However, Fillon due to the ongoing scandal began to lose supporters. Former agriculture Minister Bruno Le Mayor, who engaged in the campaign headquarters of Fillon European and international Affairs, said on 1 March on his resignation. He recalled that since the beginning of the scandal Fillon promised to withdraw from the electoral race if the investigation into his case will continue. “I believe that this word should be respected: it is necessary for reliability in the policy. Thus, guided by his principles, I resign,” said Le Mayor. However, this view is not shared by all. Associate the candidate from “Republican” Nadine Morano believes that the need to respect the decision of Fillon, and he has every right to continue the fight. “Fillon has always had the image of the crystal honest politician, was his campaign, and this scandal caused him a strong moral impact,” emphasizes Fedorov from the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Independent candidate centrist Emmanuel macron, who according to polls ahead of Fillon in the fight for second place, criticized the candidate of the “Republican,” saying he “had lost the sense of reality”. Macron insists that the judicial system in the country is functioning properly and fairly. Benoit Hamon, the presidential candidate of the socialists, said the words of Fillon on “political offence” is too loud. The “attacks” on the judicial system, he believes, is blasphemy. The presidential candidate of the right-wing “National front” marine Le Pen has not commented on the speech of Fillon.
Le Pen is now the most popular politician in France, according to the latest Ifop poll from February 28, in the first round of elections April 23, she will take the first place with 25.5% of votes, but lose in the second round. However, she is now at the center of two scandals related to her work in the European Parliament. First, the politician is suspected that sent money from the EU budget on the salaries of their colleagues of the “National front”. Last week this episode was linked to searches in the headquarters of the party. Second, on Thursday, the European Parliament must approve the decision of the parliamentary Committee on the removal of Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity for posting on Twitter pictures of the atrocities of Islamists.
And yet, says Fedorov from the Russian Academy of Sciences, for a number of reasons for the nomination of the Fillon is too early to give up. On the one hand, the expert said, the lack of new publications in mass media “can mean compromising Fillon is no more, and the peak of the critics have already passed”. A lot depends on the upcoming debate: confident speech Fillon will allow him to catch up on the popularity of Macron, which has not yet announced its program and has a strong support base.