By Anne-Elisabeth Moutet

Judicial poison could decide France’s fate

March 5, 2017 - 9:37

Whether the Fillon affair comes as a complete surprise or not to Macron, his belief is that it works to his benefit — though others are not so sure

It was a discreet lunch on June 24, 2014, at Ledoyen, the Michelin-starred restaurant on the Champs-Elysees, between Francois Fillon, Nicolas Sarkozy’s former prime minister, and Jean-Pierre Jouyet, President Francois Hollande’s current chief-of-staff. Fillon was worried that his former boss might make a successful comeback. “You have to get him,” he told Jouyet, an old friend. “Hit him harder, faster.”


The story was told by two Le Monde journalists, who successfully won a libel case against Fillon when he disputed their account. Sarkozy, who’d been repeatedly investigated by magistrates on a series of alleged corruption scandals, was facing yet another one, over campaign finance. (He’s since been cleared of all charges.) Fillon, like most political observers, had no doubt of the judges’ political motivations in a country where those judges are civil servants. He also knew that Jouyet and Hollande kept a close watch on the cases, regularly briefed directly — at times daily — by the Justice Minister’s staff.


Intent on getting the best shot at the presidency in 2017, he wanted the judges to nail Sarkozy for good. Now Fillon’s presidential run stands a good chance of being scuppered by a judicial inquiry into the plum, and possibly fictitious, jobs he gave his wife and children as his parliamentary assistants. Irony aside, this tale illustrates the poisonous side of French political life. Yesterday, Fillon announced that he and his Welsh-born wife Penelope have been summonsed by an investigating magistrate, in all likelihood to be placed under formal investigation on March 15.


Fillon’s vow
To outside observers, Fillon’s vow to fight on is incomprehensible. To his core voters, though, his cry that he is being “politically assassinated” is believable. They point out the exquisite timing of the original revelations, as well as the incredible speed with which the wheels of French justice started grinding. Four weeks ago, the political satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine revealed that Fillon’s wife had received more than half a million euros over 12 years, without ever being seen in the corridors of the Assemblee Nationale. Two investigative magistrates have launched an official inquiry, prompting questions of how they had even found clerks to work overnight on their paperwork.

Fillon’s presidential run stands a good chance of being scuppered by a judicial inquiry into the plum, and possibly fictitious, jobs he gave his wife and children as his parliamentary assistants. Irony aside, this tale illustrates the poisonous side of French political life.

Subsequent accusations about Fillon’s children have followed in a drip-drip-drip every Wednesday, accompanied by new judicial lines of inquiry, while the public was shocked at the sums involved at a time of mass unemployment, even though the jobs, if not fictitious, would be legal. That French judges have a political bent is no secret. A France 3 TV team once filmed a wall of pictures and caricatures of mostly right-wing personalities, including Sarkozy, headlined ‘Le mur des cons’ (‘The wall of imbeciles’) at the headquarters of their main union, Syndicat National de la Magistrature.

Fillon’s poll numbers
The effect of all this on Fillon’s poll numbers was disastrous. His clear lead vanished overnight. Having beaten yesterday’s men — his old boss Sarkozy, as well as Alain Juppe — in the Republican primary in December (while the Socialists self-destructed a la Jeremy Corbyn), he was set to come second to Marine Le Pen in the first round and trounce her easily in the runoff. Now he’s been overtaken by Emmanuel Macron, President Hollande’s maverick former economy minister, an untried novice with great charisma making an unprecedented independent run. Macron’s spokesmen are already appealing to Fillon’s voters. Their message is clear: Fillon is soiled goods. He might plod on, but an ignominious end is near. The interviewer didn’t contradict him. Whether the Fillon affair comes as a complete surprise or not to Macron, his belief is that it works to his benefit. Others are not so sure.

Fillon has been raging against the judges, but also the media, changing the tenor of what had until then been a civilized race into the angry tones heard during the campaign that elected Donald Trump as the American President. And perhaps the person who may gain the most from this latest injection of poison into French politics is National Front leader Marine Le Pen.


(Source: gulfnews.com)

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