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February 01, 2017

Do Republicans have a plan B if Fillon falls?

François Fillon continues his campaign as if nothing has happened. But new revelations by Le Canard Enchaîné raised the heat on him and prompted some party figures to think about Plan B. The latest allegations are that Penelope Fillon got paid €831,400 over the years, not €500,000 as reported last week, earning sometimes more than €10,000 per month. Worse still, the newspaper also reveals that two of his children got a salary of €84,000 while still studying, with monthly payments of €3814 for a Marie and €4846 for her brother. 

What is the reaction among Republicans? Officially the party stands behind Fillon. The Fillons explained their affairs to a magistrate for five hours on Monday. This was welcomed as a fast-paced judicial investigation. Fillon’s team is looking at who leaked this information, which they call a "stink bomb", to the investigative journal. 

The evidence will take time, but the doubt about Fillon is planted. And with only months to go until the first round of the presidential elections, the question is whether the party can afford to have doubts cast over its candidate. Nobody wants to be linked to any Plan B talk right now, and every camp suspects the others of dropping their support for Fillon. But Republicans and their advisers are asking behind close doors whether they should drop Fillon to save the party's chances. Should they ask Fillon to resign and, if so, when? Should they wait for him to decide? Maybe the worst can still be avoided. After all, the volatile results from the primaries suggest that Fillon can be undone without greater harm. Or not? What is clear from these considerations It is clear that Fillon’s candidacy is hanging on a thread, writes Cécile Cornudet.

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February 01, 2017

Unforgiven

One of the key events in the modern history of the SPD was the sudden resignation of Oskar Lafontaine as chairman of the SPD and German finance minister on March 11, 1999. In 2005, Lafontaine resigned his membership of the SPD and eventually joined the Left Party, becoming one of the party’s leaders. Lafontaine was instrumental in establishing the Left Party as a pan-German political force, the kind of political rival the SPD previously managed to suppress. For as long as Lafontaine was around, it would be impossible for SPD and Left Party to form a coalition.

Lafontaine is no longer as influential as he once was. He is still the leader of the Left Party in the parliament of the Saarland, but he is no longer one of the party leaders in Berlin. His voice still matters, though. He told Frankfurter Rundschau that he rejects a so-called red-red-green coalition. The SPD and the Green Party supported foreign war, weapons exports, and a euro policy that produced social unrest in southern Europe. For as long as they support those policies, there can be no ground for co-operation, he said.

Irrespective of Lafontaine’s influence, we would agree with the observation that the political gap that would need to be bridged remains very large, and it has not become any smaller with Martin Schulz as SPD chairman. Schulz is more in the tradition of Gerhard Schröder - a pragmatist going after industrial heartland votes - than that of Lafontaine. Our guess is that Schulz will steer a centrist course, and hope to gain leverage over the CDU/CSU in coalition negotiations.

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