A little over two weeks ago, it looked like François Fillon, the nominee of the conservative Les Républicains party, was set to win the French presidency. Then, revelations late last month in the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné that Mr. Fillon’s wife and children were on the public payroll, receiving payments totaling nearly $1 million, sent his poll ratings plunging.
Mr. Fillon says he has “nothing to hide.” It’s not illegal in France for members of Parliament to hire their spouses or children, assuming those family members do actual work, something that is still not clear in Mr. Fillon’s case.
The rot in French politics runs deep. On Tuesday, a French judge ordered former President Nicolas Sarkozy to stand trial on charges of illegally financing his failed 2012 political campaign. Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party who is currently leading in the polls for the first round of France’s two-round presidential election in April, is also facing a slew of corruption charges. Last October, French judges ruled the National Front party and its treasurer had to stand trial for a fraudulent enrichment scheme using public funds. Ms. Le Pen and her father, the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, are under investigation for undervaluing family-owned properties in public declarations of their assets. And Ms. Le Pen is defiantly refusing to pay back nearly 300,000 euros to the European Parliament that an investigation found were illegally used to pay her party staff members.
All of this has given a boost to two fresh political faces: Benoît Hamon, a Socialist Party candidate running on a strong environmental platform and a proposal to pay the French a universal minimum income; and Emmanuel Macron, an ardent supporter of the European Union who quit the Socialist Party last year to launch his own party. Mr. Macron is now polling just behind Ms. Le Pen, and is projected to defeat her should they face off in the final May 7 vote.
French voters are sick of the self-serving behavior of the political class, as Mr. Fillon’s crippled poll numbers make clear. Ms. Le Pen wants to upend the establishment order, but on this score, she and her party are playing by the same corrupt rule book.
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