The Thatcher Of France Falls: Amidst Scandal, Fillon Is Pushed

French right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party's presidential election candidate, Francois Fillon looks on as he takes part in a meeting in Tourcoing, northern France on February 17, 2017. / AFP / Philippe HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Les Républicains, the center-right party of France, is actively attempting to replace their presidential nominee Francois Fillon amidst a scandal that has resulted in a large drop in his poll numbers.

For the past month Fillon has been embroiled by scandal after it came to light that he had paid his wife Penelope €831,440 for a fake parliamentary job she never performed; Fillon’s campaign manager has since quit the campaign.

Fillon’s polling numbers have fallen, and major support from other parties such as the UDI (Union des démocrates et indépendants), a centrist party, has been withdrawn.

In late November, Fillon shockingly won the Les Républicains (LR) party primary after polling up to election day at a distant third behind former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and Prime Minister Alain Juppe. Fillon was seen as an unlikely outsider due to his relatively stanch fiscal conservatism, which earned him the nickname “The Thatcher of France.”

Juppe, who came in second place in the LR primary, is now the favorite to be Fillon’s replacement. As a politician with more moderate views than Fillon, Juppe is seen as the stronger general election candidate. The deadline to collect the signatures needed to launch a new candidacy is on the 17th of March.

The first general election poll of March by French pollster Odoxa asked respondents who they would vote for in two scenarios — one with Fillon as the LR nominee, and one with Juppe as the nominee.

When Fillon was included, he polled third behind Emmanuel Macron of the centrist En Marche party (a party Macron himself formed), and Marine Le Pen, the populist right wing leader of the Front Nationale. When Juppe was included, he polled in first place at 26.5%, 7.5% higher than Fillon polled.

Both Le Pen and Macron were seen as outsiders who could not make it past the first round of the elections in April yet are now battling for first and second. If such polling were to hold those two candidates, they would face each other in the early May runoff.

This scandal could possibly pave the way to the election of a far-right populist like Le Pen, or a socialist candidate like Benoit Hamon of the Socialist Party.

Early last year it was often suggested that whoever gained the nomination for Les Républicains would be guaranteed the presidency.


Photo Credit: Philippe Huguen/AFP

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