Prosecutors investigating allegations that François Fillon paid his wife for work she never completed declared this morning that it was impossible to drop the case based on what they had found so far.
For the last three weeks, different newspapers have been gathering documents and questioning Mr Fillon about fake jobs given to his family for which they received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money. A summary of the main points is available here.
“It is my duty to affirm that the numerous elements collected [by investigators] do not, at this stage, permit the case to be dropped,” said Eliane Houlette, the financial prosecutor in a statement written this morning.
“if pursued by a formal investigation, I would resign”
Fillon declared on TF1, France’s first TV channel, that he would only resign if he is pursued by a formal investigation. The recent update on the situation leaves four possibilities that could lead to it.
- The court can decide to appoint an investigative magistrate: This is the mostly likely course of action. It would provide some time to decide whether or not a formal investigation should be opened.
- Opening a formal investigation straight away: Would force Fillon to make a choice between his promise and his ambitions.
- Sending Fillon to court.
- Drop the case immediately
Although the court has not yet decided whether or not Fillon’s actions were illegal, the allegations against the former Prime Minister have had real effects on public opinion.
Polls report that, a month ago, 45 per cent of people questioned had a “good opinion” of Mr Fillon but that number has now dropped to 26 per cent.
Today, Mr Fillon declared that he would rely only on the “judgement of the popular vote”, confirming his determination to keep the race for the Elysée.
” There is nothing new, no pursuit, no formal investigation. I, therefore, only rely on the popular vote”
This decision seems to be gaining support from his party, Les Républicains, who pushed back against efforts from some members who asked Mr Fillon to resign. Even Georges Fenech, a Républicain MP, who led the proposal against Fillon, declared that as ” no strong alternatives are available, Mr Fillon remains the best candidate”.
With only 10 weeks to go until the elections, the former Prime Minister has completed the first step of his recovery. Now he has to attempt the second and recover the heart of the French people.