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French press review 2 February 2017

There have been further twists and turns in the Fillon family saga. The question now, as each day brings new and potentially damning evidence against him, is how long François Fillon can hold on to the support of his own party colleagues.

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The Fillon family finance saga continues, with the missus, Penelope, unfortunately found to have declared that she never worked as a political assistant for her husband, now right-wing presidential candidate, François Fillon.

The statement was made in a television interview recorded in 2007. It is due to be rebroadcast tonight.

The problem, of course, is that Mrs Fillon was paid nearly one million euros of public money for her work as a parliamentary assistant between 1988 and 1990, and again between 1998 and 2002.

The incriminating film was made by the British Sunday Telegraph in May 2007, when François Fillon became French prime minister.

Despite her own assertion that she disliked the corridors of power and had never worked as either parliamentary or communications assistant for her husband, Penelope is very definitely named as parliamentary assistant to François Fillon in an employment contract covering the period 1998 to 2002 when her husband represented the right in the city of Le Mans.

Fillon fights back

Right-wing paper Le Figaro give pride of place to Fillon's attack yesterday on the current government, source, according to the former prime minister, of the series of leaks and revelations which have bedevilled his campaign since he emerged as the surprise winner of the right-wing ticket for the Elysée.

Fillon says he is the victim of an "institutional coup d'état", which is a bit of an exaggeration since he's currently a candidate, not actually the president, and certainly not a state. But he's sure that the current Socialist powers-that-be are behind his imminent downfall, appealing to his right-wing friends and enemies to stand by him for just two more weeks, by which time, he hopes, the courts will have cleared him of all blame. You have to admire his optimism, whatever else you might feel.

Right-wing parliamentarians rally to their man

Yesterday the right wing was indeed acting as a bloc, solidly behind their man, even if some, like Jean-François Copé, could barely conceal their delight that the individual who ran the government for Nicolas Sarkozy on cold and distant lines was now getting his come-uppance.

Georges Fenech, right-wing deputy and supporter of Sarko, yesterday compared the Republicans party to the orchestra on the Titanic, saying "We're going down."

Fillon is still saying he's a contender but how many people are listening?

An opinion poll this morning suggests that two-thirds of the French electorate want Fillon to withdraw from the presidential race.

Left-leaning Libération says the affair has brought the mainstream right to the point of explosion, because of tensions between those who support Fillon on personal or political lines and those who feel that his goose is cooked and that a replacement candidate needs to be found immediately.

Romanian corruption laws provoke protest

Corruption in high places is also causing unrest in Romania, where several hundred thousand demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest against a proposed softening of existing legislation against political cheats and profiteers.

If the new law is passed, public fraud involving sums under the quite modest limit of 44,000 euros will escape legal sanction. Romania has had its own plague of fictitious employees, though none of them is married to a presidential candidate.

Fighting breaks out again in eastern Ukraine

There's been a further outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces. Libé is once again using the expression "humanitarian disaster" to describe the likely outcome for the civilian population in contested areas in the east of the country.

Libération says the latest fighting was clearly provoked by the pro-Russian side, perhaps because they feel that the Trump White House will not step in to hamper the territorial ambitions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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