French press review 13 February 2017

The French papers continue to pick over the bones of "Penelopegate"​,​ the fuss over payments made by centre right Presidential candidate François Fillon to his wife and children.

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Centrist daily Le Monde notes that "François Fillon presented on 6 February "his apologies to the French" for having "worked with his wife and children".

Apologies that seem very partial in view of the multiple accusations against him. Like him, many politicians stuck in polemics have been doing mea culpa exercises in recent years. But often the rhetoric deployed on these occasions has served to mitigate rather than assume responsibility."

​So, i​s it working this time?

The paper goes to the south west to find out what people think outside the Paris bubble in la France Profonde​,​ that's to say deepest France.

Le Monde finds that right-wing activists and sympathisers in Cognac and surrounding communes are struggling to digest the Fillon affair.

"Whether they are members of the Republican party, sympathizers, elected from a small commune, they voice their discomfort and their disenchantment. Even the most faithful are troubled," the paper says.

All thought that the election was in the bag. The success of the right-wing primary, the political family united, the positive polls, everything seemed to indicate a return to power of the right.

But "Penelopegate" appears to have stalled the triumphal march into the Elysée Palace. "For me, Fillon, it's over" in the words of a bitter, former union official and Fillon supporter.

"How can we ask the French to tighten the belt when they (by which he means Fillon, his wife and kids) take care of themselves. It is no longer credible."

Right-wing Le Figaro travels with Fillon to the French overseas territory of la Reunion in the Indian Ocean - and pictures him looking cheerful surrounding by supporters.

"The candidate dances, while above his head, the black clouds gather," the paper observes.

"The image, striking, tells everything about the situation of François Fillon," Le Figaro concludes. "He wanted to show that no threat would compel him to retreat.

" I will fight to the end because my program is the only one capable of relaunching France, he repeated to several thousand fans."

"François Fillon will not give up unless he is charged."

In a related story​,​ Le Figaro reports on a speech by Marion Maréchal-Le Pen​, ​ the niece of National Front leader Marine Le Pen​, ​who suspects that attempts to "dirty" François Fillon is a left-wing plot to deliver the Presidency to Emmanuel Macron​, ​a former minister in the Socialist administration who, she says​, ​"is the lifeline for the sinking socialists."

This man is credited (by the polls) to be able to reach the second round of the Presidential election, she says. She doesn't say that the official Socialist candidate Benoit Hammon is a dead duck​. S​he doesn't need to.

"So," she says, "the Left intends to shoot all those who could prevent them from reaching power."

She believes that François Fillon is "delegitimized" and "discredited" by the employment of his wife and two of his children​.​. B​ut she believes also that the former Prime Minister has arguments in his defence "that are not totally unfounded ".

The front page headline in left leaning Libération is "Beyond Reality."

The papers editorial says "There are two ways to see this election campaign that one would think would be written by an script writer on LSD (and there are still two months left!).

Pessimistic first​,​ unfortunately the tendency that, for the moment, prevails. France's political class will be the laughing stock of the world.

With what result? Massive abstention that risks playing the game of Marine Le Pen.

Except for wanting to lie down right now and wake up in five years, this vision is not bearable, say​ ​Libé.

The other way ​is resolutely optimistic.

France would be purging a generation of politicians and see the emergency of new faces, new aspirations; another way of looking at work, a society more respectful of the environment, more parity, etc.

The subtext here seems to be ​:​ Vote Emmanuel Macron!​, just what Marion Maréchal-Le Pen suspects.

It is difficult to remain optimistic it's true, say Libé.

​"​But, it is the only way to prevent the FN from taking advantage of the bedlam.​," according to the paper.​

If you didn't know already, Bedlam is short for London's Bethlem Royal Hospital​, ​the world's oldest, most notorious insane asylum.

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