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 worked as a journalist for more than thirty years and was formerly Assistant Editor of MoneyWeek, which she helped launch in 2000. Prior to this, she was Deputy Features Editor of The Times and a Commissioning Editor for The Independent on Sunday and The Daily Telegraph. She has written for most of the national newspapers including The Times, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, She interviewed celebrities weekly for The Sunday Telegraph and wrote a regular column for The Evening Standard. As Political Editor of MoneyWeek, Emily has covered subjects from Brexit to the Gaza war.

Aside from her writing, Emily trained as Nutritional Therapist following her son's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes in 2011 and now works as a practitioner for Nature Doc, offering one-to-one consultations and running workshops in Oxfordshire.