domingo, 5 de março de 2017
Fillon fights on (and on)
Fillon fights on (and on)
‘I see no reasons to withdraw,’ the conservative candidate said. ‘But I’m not autistic and I can listen.’
By PIERRE BRIANÇON 3/5/17, 5:54 PM CET Updated 3/6/17, 1:23 AM CET
PARIS — François Fillon is determined to remain a candidate in the French presidential election, he said Sunday but added the caveat that he wants to “talk to his political friends” before confirming his decision.
In an interview on French television Sunday night, Fillon declared his rally in Paris earlier in the day “a success” and insisted that his platform was “the only one” that had been approved by Républicains voters in the party’s primary in November.
“I see no reasons to withdraw,” Fillon said. “But I’m not autistic and I can listen.”
The conservative candidate said he will attend a meeting of his party’s “political committee” scheduled for Monday night, a meeting intended to salvage the conservative party’s campaign, which has been damaged by a steady stream of revelations that Fillon used public funds to pay significant salaries to his wife and children for allegedly fictitious jobs.
Fillon is currently in third place behind front-runner Marine Le Pen, who is polling at around 27 percent of the votes, and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, the former economy minister who has mounted a solo presidential run, at 24.5 percent. Fillon polls at around 20 percent, and so he wouldn’t make it to the second round of the election, which is scheduled for May 7.
“I’ve done my soul searching … And I want to say to the politicians in my camp: now it’s time to do yours” — François Fillon
Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé — seen as the favorite to pick up the conservative baton in case Fillon pulled out of the race — said he would make a statement Monday morning in what observers believe is an indication that Juppé won’t run, despite entreaties from many members of the Républicains party. The main loser of the conservative primary four months ago, Juppé has always indicated that he would only consider running if Fillon made the decision to withdraw.
Though he had promised to drop out if he was placed under a formal investigation, Fillon instead ratcheted up the rhetoric after announcing Wednesday that he would soon be placed under formal investigation by a French judge, pledging to “fight until the end” and attacking the judges whom he’d accused before of being “politically motivated.”
Both in the TV interview and in his speech at the Paris rally, however, Fillon struck a decidedly more conciliatory tone than he had in the past few days.
“I’ve done my soul searching,” he said to the gathering of his supporters on the Trocadéro Square overlooking the Eiffel Tower. “And I want to say to the politicians in my camp: now it’s time to do yours. Will you let the passions of the moment take precedence over the national interest?”
Instead of insisting he would stay in the race, Fillon apologized for what he called his two “mistakes.” The first was having employed his wife as his own parliamentary aide — which gave rise to the allegation he had misused public funds to do so. The second mistake was “having hesitated on the best way” to explain what he did to the French people, he said.
Fillon has always protested that although he regretted having put his wife and children on his parliamentary payroll, he didn’t do anything illegal.
The meeting of the political committee of the Républicains party, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been brought forward to Monday night by chair Gérard Larcher — the president of the French senate — and Bernard Accoyer, the party’s general secretary, due to “political circumstances,” the two men said in a statement.
In the last few days, Fillon has faced a wave of desertions from his campaign staff. In short order, his main foreign policy adviser Bruno Le Maire, his campaign manager Patrick Stefanini, top spokesman Thierry Solère and treasurer Gilles Boyer resigned from the campaign, saying they didn’t believe Fillon could be elected after having broken his repeated pledge not to run if he was ever put under a formal judicial probe.
Some Républicains officials noted Sunday that the political committee is just an ad hoc body, created by Fillon in the wake of his surprise victory in the conservative primary last November. So far Fillon loyalists hold a majority in the body, comprised of some 15 people.
Fillon devoted much of his speech Sunday to a robust defense of his policy platform. That seemed to lend credence to rumors that one of the ways contemplated by the Républicains to spare him total humiliation would be to pledge that, if he stood down, any replacement candidate would run on Fillon’s program.
Juppé could hardly agree to such a deal, having fought against that platform throughout the primary election, which he eventually lost.
The first round of the election is scheduled for April 23.