A very French scandal

François Fillon's presidential bid has been dealt a blow over work allegations concerning his wife.


Franois Fillon with his unusually well-paid assistant
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2012 Rex Features. No use without permission.)

"Allegations of financial impropriety... threaten to derail a bid for the [French] presidency," says the FT. Franois Fillon, the centre-right candidate, has "promised to restore moral standards to public life". He used his "reputation for probity" to beat both Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Jupp in the Republicans' primaries. However, his campaign has now been hit by claims that his wife, paid €500,000 over eight years as his assistant, received an unusually high salary while doing little apparent work. The allegations are particularly "inflammatory" since he plans "to slash civil service jobs".

Fillon's insistence that his wife "had in fact been secretly toiling as a high-powered aide" are "comical", says Nabila Ramdani on Independent.co.uk. After all, he has previously said "his wife had no other role beyond accompanying him to meetings and handing out leaflets". Nevertheless, it's too early to write him off because "this kind of scandal is entirely normal in France".

Indeed, French MPs "are given around €75,000 a year without any questions being asked, to add to allowances for everything from housing to stationery". No wonder their urge to change a cushy system soon dwindles. Many of Fillon's conservative predecessors have been tainted by allegations of sleaze. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is herself being investigated for her role in a party-wide EU financial scam.

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Fillon faces other problems too. "Concern is mounting among some of the candidate's allies that his perceived indifference to the day-to-day struggles of ordinary people is becoming an electoral risk," notes Helen Fouquet on Bloomberg.com. While his economic reforms "are the sort of medicine that many top executives and international institutions have been demanding for years", they "sound like a threat" to those struggling financially. Working people with annual incomes of less than €20,000 represent nearly a third of the electorate.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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