January 26, 2017
This could be a fateful turn for François Fillon. French courts opened an inquiry into the potential misuse of public funds after the Canard Enchaîné reported that François Fillon’s wife Penelope drew a salary totalling €500,000 as his assistant, but never actually worked.
We can't predict the outcome of this inquiry, but this has the potential to damage Fillon politically. First, there is his image of integrity. He always spoke about the courage to say the truth, advocated transparency, and gave Nicolas Sarkozy a lecture about ethical conduct. Commentators are now making him eat his own words: imagine if Charles de Gaulle was investigated?
Second, the image of his wife, who "single-handedly" raised four of his five children while he was away doing politics, is tattered. So, was she the housewife as he always said she was, or his political adviser? A salary of up to €7,900 certainly does not suggest that the image we have of Penelope is the right one. Will the catholic voters still support him? His first defence, that it is a woman's right to work, as reported by Le Point, could not have been worse.
Third, what does this say about his call for reducing the number of civil servants by 500,000? How credible will he be to pursue such a discourse now?
This is a watershed moment for François Fillon, writes Cécile Cornudet, and it will change the course of his campaign into a totally different direction from what he had planned.