This Sunday will be deciding for the outcome of the presidential race for François Fillon. To spite his opponents, including the ones inside the party, he decided to gather his people on the Trocadero Square. Fillon's followers came to Paris on buses and trains from all over France to support the project of reforming the country proposed by the right, rather than Fillon himself. The organizers expected up to 45 thousand participants.
Five years ago on the same stage he was warming up 200 thousand people before the speech of Nicolas Sarkozy who in the end lost to François Holland. Back then it was sunny, but today both the weather and timing are not on Fillon's side. On the urgent party congress on Monday he might be asked to leave. The Fillon couple fights back. For the first time since the start of the scandal Penelope gave an interview to Le Journal Du Dimanche. «I don't think I was doing any politics. I was merely working for my husband and the residents of Sarthe. Everything was legal and properly declared. I told him that he needs to see it through. I tell him this every day, but he's the one to decide.» Fillon: «I'd like to address my fellow party members. I'm going to say this now. It's time to test your conscience. Will you allow this tumult to go on, putting our nation's interests at risk? Will you continue putting your career and your hidden motives above the political program chosen by millions of voters?»
The situation had no precedents in the history of the Fifth Republic. The 20-year-old case was made public precisely a couple of months before the election. The media got hold of the information. The investigation was launched in a blink of an eye. Fillon and his wife were called in for questioning with only a few weeks left till the first round. While François Fillon was preparing for the meeting with his followers in Nimes, his apartment in the 7th Arrondissement, the political center of Paris, was yet again visited by the police with a search warrant. So who started all this? The key person seems to be the man supervising the transfer of power from Holland to Macron, Chief of Staff Jean Pierre Jouyet, a judge and a former prosecutor in the Supreme Court. The compromising materials were handed to Canard Enchaine by two people: Jouyet's deputy Thomas Cazenave and President's communication adviser Gaspard Gantzer.
One of the theories suggests that the leak might have come from the former Minister of Justice Rachida Dati as a revenge for Nicolas Sarkozy's losing the primary in the first round. Sarkozy, however, is now an active supporter of Fillon. «We have some questions for the left who are in power, for certain media outlets who align themselves with the left, and we generally question the neutrality of justice. The current judicial agenda around Le Pen and Fillon is very suspicious. It's a political story which aims to discredit the entire right wing».
One attack after another. Informational frenzy and a new strike. Member of his own campaign team started to denounce Fillon, either on their own, or under the pressure from outside. On top of that, there's a whole bunch of cooked-up stories about his wife having been arrested and his key supporters demanding his resignation. According to polls, he has a rather high level of support. At the moment, it's slightly over 20%. But this support is not enough to get Fillon into the second round. Influential left liberal media are pushing the right into substituting Fillon with Juppé. They have even published the results of a poll showing that in the first round Juppé could outrun both Macron and Le Pen. There's only one hitch. The rules demand that by March 17 the Constitutional Council has to receive the lists of candidates' supporters from among locally elected government officials. The required minimum is 500 people. Despite the scandal, Fillon already has more than a thousand signatures, while Juppé has only one. By removing Fillon, the right will risk ending up with no candidate at all.
Interestingly, the front-runner of the first round Marine Le Pen collected only 84 signatures, while Emmanuel Macron is close to 500. On Thursday, he was one of the last ones to present his political platform, a synthesis of left and right ideas. Macron: «I want a responsible dialogue with Russia aimed at sanctions relief in the framework of the Minsk agreements. This difficult but essential dialogue with Russia has to be conducted same as with any other regional autocratic state whose values we don't share but who is our essential partner in promoting peace, particularly in the Middle East».
In the morning he was delivering a speech just a hundred meters from Élysée Palace, and in the evening, at the Agricultural Fair, the most pro-EU candidate was hit with an egg thrown by one of the farmers. The farmstead of Olivier Timmermans consists of 200 cows. Poor forage crops, exorbitant taxes, loans and low purchase prices have all but crippled French dairy farmers. Many of them are forced to sell their land just to pay off their debts. «It's the first time we have these problems since the end of World War II. The prices on our products went down. Russia's embargo didn't do any good. It was forced upon us, and it made the market unstable. We've been protesting with our labor unions, but we didn't achieve any result».
Burning car tires, roads blocked with tractors, kilometers-long traffic jams and unfulfilled promises — the left politics resulted in a dire state of the agricultural north of France. Two days after the official presentation of his platform in Paris, the independent candidate Emmanuel Macron came to Normandy, a traditional stronghold of the right. For the event in Caen his team chose a spacious hangar accommodating 5,000 people. Special people meant to fire up the crowd were planted throughout the audience, but despite their best efforts, they often failed.
A poll conducted by Le Point showed that almost 84% of its readers believe Macron to be a media candidate, a publicity project. The TV time he has in his disposal is more than that of all his opponents put together. During his campaign, he managed to raise roughly 7.5 million euro in donations, but who are these donors? 39-year-old Macron, who started his career in the Rothschild bank, refuses to make the list of donors public. «This situation is unique in the history of the Fifth Republic. Scandals around Fillon had overtaken the agenda and edged out all debates around the future of our country. Macron is the only one who seems not to be covered in dirt. But it's not about the political party, it's about the resources. He managed to find the money to finance his campaign. If somebody gave him 7.5 million euro, I'd like to know who that was, because it might be an attempt to buy him».
The French politics is historically dependent on the money from Arab countries. With every new president comes a new sponsor. François Holland, widely regarded as Macron's secret patron, payed his latest foreign visit to Saudi Arabia bringing back 10 years worth of contracts with a total value of 250 million euro. Jacques Chirac was a close friend of the President of Tunisia Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Muammar Gaddafi had backed the campaign of Nicolas Sarkozy. The investigation is ongoing. The scandal prevented him from returning to power.
By the way, he was the one to have opened the Pandora box. During his time undesirable politicians were being removed with a juicy scandal, a follow-up investigation and sometimes even an arrest, as was the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. This time the main goal is Fillon, but the crosshairs are already locked on the leader of the National Front Marine Le Pen who proposes leaving the EU, abolishing euro and anti-Russia sanctions, as well at protecting the French market and national borders. The prosecution has questioned two of her assistants on a suspicion of having fake jobs. Le Pen, however, ignored the subpoena invoking her Parliamentary immunity, The EU parliament promptly voted to partially lift the immunity. For now, it's only on the case of re-tweeting pictures of ISIS executions, albeit with a disapproving comment.
"It's unbelievable! Are we supposed to cover for terrorists? The government of France is actually trying to protect ISIS". In any case, the tweet alone is enough to put Marine Le Pen in prison for three years. So it all boils down to how much time it will take to complete the investigation and reach the verdict.