Scandal reshapes the French presidential election race

François Fillon gave an impressive press conference this week. But was it enough to get his campaign back on track?


Has Franois Fillon saved his campaign?
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Franois Fillon's impressive press conference this week might "save his faltering campaign to be the next president of France", says Harry de Quetteville in The Daily Telegraph. He "struck just the right note of wounded pride and regret for the way that #PenelopeGate had spiralled out of control". Whether the French will buy it is another matter: he failed to answer the main charge against him, which is that his wife and children have been paid nearly €900,000 since 1988 for doing very little.

This "apparent nepotism" is particularly damaging as he has run a campaign based on his "reputation for ethical probity", says The Wall Street Journal. It also makes it "awkward" for him to advocate slashing public spending and jobs.

Republicans "grumble" that Fillon should step aside polls suggest he will be eliminated in the first round of the four-way race on 23 April against Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front; Emmanuel Macron, running as an independent; and Benot Hamon, of the unpopular ruling Socialist party, says The Wall Street Journal. However, "a nominee resignation would be unprecedented in the Fifth Republic"; nor are there any obvious replacements. Le Pen's hopes have certainly been given a boost by recent events.

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She is jettisoning "core Front policies", including the reintroduction of the death penalty, in an effort to woo "middle-of-the-road voters", says Adam Sage in The Times. Like Trump, she has cast herself as a leader who will protect France from immigration and globalisation, and has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership within six months of the election.

Yet even if she wins the first round, President Le Pen is "not on the cards", says Catherine Fieschi in The Guardian. She is "no longer the outsider". Instead, Macron, the polls' favourite, is "emerging as the progressive alternative". Renewal may come, but in a more positive form.

Nothing is certain, says Vivienne Walt in Time. Macron's"En Marche!" movement has drawn comparisons with Barack Obama, but "scandal has reshaped this race and may do so again". There are signs that Russian hackers may manipulate the election, and Le Pen is also under investigation for "hiring staff for phantom jobs in Brussels". "Few would predict what comes next, in a race that has so far defied expectations."

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.