The Cable

France’s Fillon to Be Formally Charged, But Won’t Quit

Despite formal probe, the center-right candidate won’t drop out of the presidential race.


François Fillon, center-right candidate in France’s presidential race, said in a speech on Wednesday that he will be brought under formal investigation — the French equivalent of being formally charged — over allegations that he used about 1 million euros in parliamentary funds to pay his wife and children for jobs they did not actually do.

The news comes less than a week after Fillon was placed under judicial investigation. The formal investigation (that is, the charges) is to begin March 15 — two days before the official deadline for candidates to register.

Fillon had previously said he would drop out if an investigation were brought against him.

On Wednesday, however, he said he would not drop out, insisting that he is the victim of a “political assassination.”

He acknowledged that he was sorry, adding, “France is bigger than my mistakes,” which seems to be an answer to a question nobody asked. He also said, “I will not resign. I will not give in. I will not withdraw. I will go to the end because it is democracy that is being defied. I ask you to follow me.”

At least one person is not following him: Bruno Le Maire, a top Fillon aide, thought to be his pick for foreign minister, who resigned from the campaign, saying that Fillon, in not dropping out of the race, was going back on his word, which is “indispensable for political credibility.”

There are some in France — notably, conservatives and Catholics — who still support Fillon. But the scandal is likely to hurt him in the first round of voting, to be held April 23.

If it hurts him so much that he does not make it into the second round in early May, that means that neither of France’s two main parties will have made it to the final round: The Socialist party is not expected to perform well, as it is the party of unspeakably unpopular French President François Hollande.

The decision for one of Europe’s keystone states could then be a stark one — between center-left, pro-European Union, independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, and far-right, anti-EU candidate Marine Le Pen.

That is, if Le Pen can keep her own fake job scandal at bay. Her National Front allegedly used EU funds to pay political staffers. Le Pen’s own chief of staff is under investigation.

Photo credit: THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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