France: Center-right front-runner Fillon hit with criminal probe; benefit for LePen, Macron?

France: Center-right front-runner Fillon hit with criminal probe; benefit for LePen, Macron?
Francois Fillon, surprise "primary" winner over Nicolas Sarkozy. (Image: Screen grab of Euronews video, YouTube)

[Ed. – The MSM badly want the benefit to go to Emmanuel Macron, the left-wing independent who has “eclipsed” Hollande’s Socialist ascendancy.  But I’m not so sure the plurality preference among French voters will really be for Macron.  LePen is problematic in significant ways — e.g., her father’s connections with Nazism and anti-Semitism (which, granted, she has repudiated) — so this development with Fillon is particularly unfortunate.]

The French presidential campaign saw its first major scandal break on Wednesday when prosecutors opened a probe into front-runner Francois Fillon.

The national financial prosecutor started a preliminary criminal investigation into Fillon’s employment of his wife as a parliamentary aide starting in 1998. Satirical weekly Canard Enchaine reported a day earlier that Penelope Fillon collected a public salary totaling about 500,000 euros ($537,000) over multiple years without actually doing any work. …

In a race that has already seen Fillon’s Republicans reject France’s most popular politician for their candidate, former President Nicolas Sarkozy lose in a first-round primary and the governing Socialists eclipsed by 39-year-old independent Emmanuel Macron, the prosecutors’ decision adds a new layer of volatility. Macron may be in the best position to benefit. …

While he’s yet to break into the top two in polling for the first round in April, he’s seen his support grow steadily since declaring his candidacy last year and large, enthusiastic crowds attend many of his rallies. …

Marine Le Pen’s team is also sensing an opportunity. …

Le Pen, who wants to take France out of the euro, edged into the lead with about 26 percent support compared with about 25 percent for Fillon in this month’s Ipsos poll.

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