TWO RIGHT WING French politicians are in trouble over their alleged misuse of EU funds.
Marine Le Pen, Leader of the far-right, anti-immigrant Front National, has missed the deadline for paying back over £250,000 of EU funding claimed to employ a secretary. EU rules stipulate that EU-funded secretaries should work from Brussels or Strasbourg, but it is alleged that Christine Griset, the “secretary” whom Ms Le Pen employed and whose salary was paid from EU funds, worked mainly in the Front National’s party headquarters in Paris. This is why the EU has required these funds to be returned. There is also an issue over EU funding of Ms Le Pen’s bodyguard, thought to total over £40,000 euros, waiting to be resolved.
Ms Le Pen has indicated that she does not intend to repay the money, claiming that the request to do so is part of a politically motivated vendetta. Nor is her Party able to help: it is struggling to fund the elections.
Ms Le Pen is standing in the French presidential elections which begin in April: she is one of the leading candidates and will be hoping that President Trump’s victory in the USA creates a bandwagon of right wing, populist politics which will help her win. She has promised that if she is elected she will conduct a “Frexit” referendum on whether France should follow the UK and leave the EU. The European Parliament may now resort to docking money from her salary at source.
•Le Pen is not the only right wing candidate with money woes. The Republican Party’s candidate, Francois Fillon, the candidate of the mainstream right, has been criticised for spending 834,000 euros to his wife. It is alleged that Fillon claimed to be employing his wife, but that there is no evidence that she actually did any work. Fillon claims that the allegations are untrue and are an attempt to undermine his election campaign. In that sense, Fillon’s counter-allegations appear to have some truth: polls show that some three quarters of French voters do not believe Fillon’s assertions that his wife was genuinely employed. The Republican Party is standing by their candidate.
The French Socialist Party has selected Benoit Hamon as their candidate – a man described as the “French Jeremy Corbyn”, which has added to the feeling that the election will be very politically polarised. This has left Emmanuel Macron, a presidential candidate who describes himself as being of the political centre ground, hoping to pick up votes from disgruntled supporters of the left and right alike.