France’s Fillon counts cost of wife ‘fake job’ claims

 28 Jan 2017 - 2:49


Paris: French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon was counting the cost yesterday of claims his wife had a fake job in a scandal overshadowing this weekend’s vote to pick a leftwing candidate.
Fillon said in a TV interview he was “disgusted” at allegations that Welsh-born Penelope Fillon did nothing to earn half a million euros paid from public funds over more than a decade.
He said his wife had “always worked for me” during his four-decade political career and listed tasks she had carried out, including “editing my speeches” and representing him at events.
France’s national financial prosecutor has opened a preliminary inquiry into the claims.
A new opinion poll yesterday showed popularity of Fillon, a former prime minister who is widely seen as frontrunner in the presidential contest, had taken a hit over the allegations.
Thirty-eight percent of voters across the political spectrum have a “good opinion” of him in wake of claims about his wife’s jobs, a drop of four points from a poll on January 8, and 16 points less than in early November, the Odoxa poll of 1,012 people showed.
Le Canard Enchaine, the newspaper that made the claims, also alleged that in 2012 and 2013, Penelope Fillon had a job at a literary periodical, La Revue des Deux Mondes, for which she was also paid from the allowance that her husband receives as a member of parliament.
The former publisher of La Revue des Deux Mondes was questioned yesterday by investigators probing the claims.
Michel Crepu said this week that while Fillon’s wife had contributed comments to several articles, “I do not have the slightest indication of what could be described as a job as a literary consultant.”
If Fillon does drop out of the race, the man he beat to the rightwing nomination last year, veteran centrist Alain Juppe, on Friday “clearly and definitively” ruled out any suggestions he could step in.
In a race being watched closely after Britain’s vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the United States, Fillon is currently forecast to reach the presidential runoff in May, with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen his most likely opponent.