Posts Tagged ‘Penelope’

French MPs vote for transparency — Embrace Macron’s plan to clean up politics

July 29, 2017


© Jacques Demarthon, AFP | Members of Parliament debate the ‘moralisation of political life’ bill at the National Assembly, Paris, July 28, 2017.

Text by Anna SANSOM

Latest update : 2017-07-29

After an election season plagued by scandals over fake jobs and nepotism, French MPs have approved a wide-ranging bill aimed at introducing more transparency into public life.

After promising to restore the public’s faith in politicians, French President Emmanuel Macron  succeeded in convincing France’s National Assembly to adopt the first reading of a bill on the “moralisation of public life” overnight Saturday in a bid to make French politics more transparent and free from nepotism and conflicts of interest.

After nearly 50 hours of debate and after scrutinising more than 800 amendments, members of parliament (known in France as deputies), adopted the first part of the bill aiming to restore “confidence in public life” by 319 votes to 4, then approved a second part of the bill by 203 votes to 37.

In his inaugural speech as president in May, Macron said: “France is only a model for the world if it is exemplary. My mandate will restore the confidence the French need to believe in themselves.”

Macron put financial and ethical probity in public life at the centre of his presidential campaign after corruption scandals rocked his rivals, notably François Fillon of the conservative Les Républicains party and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who were both accused of creating fake jobs for family or friends.

Several MPs, including Le Pen and leader of the far-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) movement Jean-Luc Melenchon, are also facing enquiries about the possible misuse of European Parliament funds.

Illegal to employ close family members

If the bill passes into law, it will become illegal for ministers, MPs and local executive bodies to employ “close” family members (including spouses, civil partners, parents, children and so forth). Breaking the law could entail a three-year prison sentence and a €45,000 fine plus the reimbursement of any salaries paid.

Fillon was put under formal investigation for misuse of public funds earlier this year amid allegations that he had arranged for his British wife Penelope to be paid at least €680,000 in taxpayers’ money over a 15 year-period for a fake job as a parliamentary assistant. Fillon was also accused of giving two of his children fake jobs when he was a senator and they were still students. However, Fillon has denied breaking any laws.

The new bill calls for any “family link” (a member or former member of the family) to be declared to the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life (HATVP) before they are employed. Members of parliament would also need to declare the hiring of family members to the assembly. (The rules will apply to employing a family member of another MP.)

The ‘parliamentary grants system’, which enables deputies and senators to award funds to local organisations, will be gradually phased out by 2024. According to the French media, €147 million of these have so far been awarded in 2017, up from €138 million last year. Politicians will also face intense scrutiny if they reward clients and organisations in return for their support.

Prevention of conflicts of interest

MPs’ expense will be subjected to more control and will only be reimbursed upon proof of receipts or if they specifically request an advance.

According to figures quoted in French daily Le Parisien, MPs currently receive an indemnity of €5,373 for expenses while senators received €6,110.

Members of parliament will no longer be able to receive remuneration from public or semi-public agencies if the legislation passes.

The bill also restricts what other work parliamentary members can undertake, which includes forbidding them to provide private consulting during their time in office.

However, they can act as consultants if they began advising their clients more than a year before the start of their time in office. Nonetheless, advising companies that are involved in public projects would be forbidden.

A “public register” would also be created that would list the MPs who could be facing a conflict of interest and presidential candidates will in the future need to declare their various financial activities and interests.

So far Macron appears to be making good on his promise to “end nepotism and conflicts of interest” in French political life.

Voters these days demand more integrity in politics, Macron said in March, adding: “I believe in zero tolerance.”


French Socialist candidate livid as ex-PM Valls defects to Macron

March 29, 2017
By Michel Rose and Sudip Kar-Gupta
Reuters — March 29, 2017
French Socialist candidate livid as ex-PM Valls defects to Macron

By Michel Rose and Sudip Kar-Gupta

PARIS (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday he would vote for Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential election, becoming the biggest Socialist Party name to turn his back on its official candidate and support the centrist instead.

While it was not clear if Valls’ defection would benefit poll favourite Macron, who politely thanked Valls, it prompted angry responses from many Socialists and media speculation about the survival of the largest left-wing party.

Manuel Valls (R) with Emmanuel Macron - file pic 2014
Manuel Valls (R) said it was a responsible position to back the centrist candidate

France’s ex-Prime Minister Manuel Valls has thrown his weight behind the centrist candidate for the presidency, Emmanuel Macron, and not his own Socialist party’s candidate.

Valls, whose announcement came days after veteran Socialist defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian deserted to Macron, said he wanted to do all he could to ensure that far-right leader Marine Le Pen, second-placed in opinion polls, did not win power.

“I’m not going to take any risks,” Valls said, adding that he believed Le Pen’s score potential was seriously underrated. “I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” he told BFM TV.

French opinion polls show Macron winning the presidency in a second-round vote on May 7 where he would face off against Le Pen. They show Socialist Benoit Hamon set for a humiliating fifth place in the first round eliminator on April 23.

Hamon, a hardline Socialist who wants to legalise cannabis and create a monthly state payment for all, is on course to win only 10 percent of the vote in the first round, according to an Elabe poll published on Wednesday.

Hamon denounced Valls’ defection and called on all left-wingers to unite behind him 25 days from round one of the election. “I urge you to sanction those who’ve started this morbid game…those who no longer believe in anything,” he said in a statement.

Valls said his choice did not mean he would campaign for the 39-year-old Macron – a fellow minister in President Francois Hollande’s government from 2014, but who quit last year to prepare a presidential bid under his own political banner En Marche! (Onwards!).

Valls, who lost to radical left-winger Hamon in the Socialist primaries, is seen by political sources and experts as likely to wait in the wings and seek to build a reformist parliamentary force that would be distinct from En Marche!, but which could get a say in its parliamentary majority should Macron become president.

“I have nothing to negotiate and am not asking for anything, I’m not joining his camp,” Valls said. “But nothing will be the same after this presidential election…The duty of reformists is to play their part in a governing parliamentary majority.”

Macron, who has drawn support from the political right as well as left, was also quick to say he did not plan to bring Valls into his government. “I shall be the guarantor of new faces, new ways of doing things,” he said on Europe 1 Radio.

The news came a day after third-placed candidate Francois Fillon, under formal judicial investigation on suspicion of financial impropriety, suffered a further blow when his British wife Penelope was put under formal investigation as well.

The inquiry centres on allegations that the couple misused hundreds of thousands of euros in public funds, with him paying her a lavish tax-funded salary for minimal work as his parliamentary assistant.

Francois Fillon has conceded what he called errors of judgment but denies doing anything illegal.


Valls’ endorsement is a mixed blessing for Macron, even though their political views are not far apart.

Fillon, who has promised to slash government spending, seized on Valls’ move to say their would be no break with the past under Macron as both men were key ministers under Hollande.

“All of Hollande’s team is backing Emmanuel Macron. It’s as I’ve always said, Emmanuel Macron is Francois Hollande,” Fillon told reporters.

For many Socialists, and above all candidate Hamon, Valls’ decision comes from a man who represents Hollande’s rightward turn during his five-year mandate towards the business-friendly reforms that upset the left and alienated core voters.

The blow for Hamon clearly compounded existing left-right splits within the party.

“Everybody now knows what a commitment signed by a man like Manuel Valls is worth,” Arnaud Montebourg, a more hardline leftist in the Socialist Party, said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Michel Rose and Leigh Thomas; writing by Andrew Callus and Brian Love editing by Mark Heinrich)

France’s Fillon under renewed fire ahead of Sarkozy talks

February 15, 2017


France’s scandal-hit presidential candidate Francois Fillon came under renewed attack from within his conservative camp on Wednesday ahead of planned talks with former president Nicolas Sarkozy that Fillon hopes will restore party unity.

Rebel conservative lawmaker Georges Fenech said his The Republicans party faced defeat in the April-May election unless it ditched Fillon.

Fenech has been one of the strongest anti-Fillon voices since an official inquiry into fake work allegations knocked the ex-prime minister’s campaign off track three weeks ago.

“I’d love to be wrong but I can’t believe any more because I can see on the ground the reaction of the voters. They don’t want to vote for us any more,” Fenech told Radio Classique.

He was speaking a day after leading a failed bid to force a meeting of the party’s executive that could have challenged Fillon’s decision to continue his presidential bid.

Fenech referred to a meeting this week between Fillon and his camp as one of “mutual congratulation” in which “nobody wants to tell him the truth – or very few people”.

“With that as a starting point we are going to the wall,” he said. “There are other people in our party who are respectable, young and have the capacity to run the country.”

Fillon had been favorite to win the presidency until allegations in a newspaper three weeks ago that his wife Penelope had been paid hundreds of thousands of euros in taxpayers’ money for work she may not have done.

An official inquiry has been launched and the scandal has damaged Fillon’s campaign.

With 10 weeks to go until the presidential election, Fillon’s place as favorite has been taken by centrist Emmanuel Macron, while far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen has also gained ground.

Fillon was due to have a lunch meeting later on Wednesday with Sarkozy, whom he beat to the party ticket in a primary in November. Fillon served as prime minister during the Sarkozy presidency of 2007-2012.

An opinion poll published on Wednesday by Ifop-Fiducial for Paris Match showed Fillon’s popularity has dropped sharply, with only 26 percent of people having a good opinion of him compared with 45 percent a month ago.

The same poll had Macron down by one percentage point at 52 percent and Le Pen was down two points at 31 percent.

(Reporting by Simon Carraud; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Pressure on French presidential candidate Francois Fillon could pull out of the race amid wife’s scandal probe

February 2, 2017

PARIS — Pressure on French presidential candidate Francois Fillon to pull out of the election race grew on Thursday as some lawmakers in his own camp urged him to abandon his bid in the face of a fake work scandal to save the conservatives from defeat.

The scandal, which surfaced a week ago when a newspaper said the wife of the 62-year-old ex-prime minister, Penelope, had been paid about 600,000 euros ($647,580) for work she may not have done, has throw Fillon’s campaign off track.

Image result for fillon and wife, photos

“I think our candidate must stop,” Alain Houpert, a conservative senator close to Fillon’s former rival for the presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy, told Public Senat television late on Wednesday.

Fillon held an emergency meeting with party bigwigs on Wednesday in which he urged them to stick by him for another two weeks – the time he estimated an official preliminary investigation would take to run its course.

But some in his own camp appeared unwilling to allow him that much time, after an opinion poll showed Fillon, hitherto the frontunner in the election, would be eliminated from its crucial runoff.

Another poll which was published early on Thursday showed that 69 percent of people wanted Fillon to drop his bid.

“We need to change tactics, strategy,” lawmaker Georges Fennech told RTL radio on Thursday, saying this needed to happen “without delay, today.”

Another legislator, Philippe Gosselin, called on former prime minister Alain Juppe, whom Fillon beat in a runoff for the candidacy, to start thinking of stepping in as an alternative.

Others in the Republicans party disagreed and said Fillon should be supported. “These declarations shock me,” Sarkozy-supporter Eric Ciotti told France Info radio on Thursday. “We need to keep our cool. Statements like these only serve to weaken us.”

In what may be a further damaging revelation, France 2 television said it would broadcast on Thursday evening extracts of a 2007 interview of Fillon’s wife British-born wife telling British media that she had never worked as his assistant.

Satirical weekly Le Canard enchaine, which broke news of the scandal, has alleged she was paid huge sums in salaries over years working first as her husband’s parliamentary assistant and then under his successor in the National Assembly.

The newspaper says there is no proof she did any really work in these jobs nor in a subsequent job as a literary reviewer for a cultural magazine.

Fillon, chosen in November by a Republicans party primary, has said he will stand down if he is put under formal investigation.

($1 = 0.9265 euros)

(Editing by Richard Balmforth)