Wednesday, February 01, 2017

EU French Election Crisis: Police Search Party Leaders Offices of main challenger to Le Pen

The withdrawal of the pro - EU conservative candidate Francois Fillon from the French presidential election race is looking increasingly likely as evidence of his involvement in corruption and fraud piles up. Until recently Fillon was considered the favorite for the French presidential election in the April/May presidential election, his withdrawal or loss of popularity would leave current frontrunner Marine Le Pen without a serious challenger.

After news broke that Fillon may have paid out as much as 1 million euros of taxpayers' money to his wife and children, far more than initially thought, French police searched Francois Fillon's office in parliament as an inquiry into alleged fake work by his wife threatened his campaign. Party leaders began to consider a 'Plan B' to oppose Le Pen. Fillon had been favorite to win the presidency by virtue of a stitch up which would see pro - EU socialists voting conservative to deny Le Pen's National Front power. This is what happened in 2014's regional elections. Fillon was looking a good bet until a week ago, when it was reported that his wife Penelope had drawn hundreds of thousands of euros in pay from state funds without doing any work.

Fillon on Tuesday declared that he was a victim of a ‘professional’ plot aimed at derailing his bid to become France’s next president. He only failed to mention a conspiracy between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump to make the farce complete.

“To my knowledge, in the history of the Fifth Republic, this situation has never occurred” he said during a conference in Paris. “Never with less than three months to go before a presidential election has an operation of such magnitude and this professional been staged with the aim of getting rid of a candidate.”

According to Reuters citing the latest opinion poll conducted on Tuesday, 76% of voters were not convinced of his professed innocence. With the inquiry gathering pace, party officials began to wonder whether, and how, they might replace him.

"The way things are going, I think we might have to quickly trigger a plan B," one lawmaker on condition of anonymity told Reuters.

"Plan B. Lots of people are thinking, reflecting and working on it but no one will speak openly about it," said another influential Republicans member of parliament.

Allegations of pay for fake work, published in satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine, have cast a doubt on the squeaky-clean image that helped Fillon win his party's primary election over rivals who had faced legal issues in the past. In an amusing tangent, Reuters writes that "the inquiry into whether the hundreds of thousands of euros his wife received in salary was a misuse of taxpayer's money also highlights a key plank of his campaign - that the state spends too much and half a million public sector jobs should go." Almost as if a politician was... hypocritical.

"This will sicken people who are on the minimum wage or not much more," the second lawmaker said. The biggest fear in the party, he said, was that Fillon would be damaged enough to lose the election, but not enough to pull out.

What Reuters failed to add is that those "sickened" by Fillon's conduct may just end up voting for Le Pen, whose election would most likely be the final nail in the Eurozone's coffin.

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