The Fillon Fight: A timeline of the extraordinary fake jobs scandal

François Fillon has vowed once again to battle on in his bid to become French president. This timeline is testament to both Fillon's determination and front and also the risks he is facing.

The Fillon Fight: A timeline of the extraordinary fake jobs scandal
Photo: AFP
It all began on….
January 25th
Satirical newspaper Canard Enchainé reveals that François Fillon's wife Penelope earned €500,000 as a parliamentary assistant over a number of years working for both her husband and another MP Marc Jouland.
The paper could not find anyone who could vouch for Penelope Fillon actually having done any work to justify the salary therefor suggesting the job was “fictif”, made up or fake, in English.
Later that day the the public financial prosecutiors opens a preliminary inquiry into “misuse of public funds and abuse of social benefits and concealing these offenses”.
January 26th
The next day, Fillon's team begin the counter-offensive and the candidate appears on French TV channel TF1 condemning the allegations as “slander” aimed at “attacking his wife”.
But he also reveals that he employed his two children to work for him during his time as a senator, but insists it was only for “specific tasks” and that they were hired for their skills as lawyers. 
Fillon also announces that he will “sue the newspapers that said his wife had a fake job”.
Crucially though he promises to step down if he is placed under formal investigation, in other words if he is charged with an offense.
January 28th
It is revealed that, contrary to his statement on TF1, Francois Fillon's two children were not officially lawyers at the time when he employed them, something which his team dismissed as an “imprecision of language”.
January 30th
Francois Fillon and his wife are called in to give their statements at the central anti-corruption and fiscal fraud office as part of the preliminary investigation.
January 31st
Police search Fillon's office at the National Assembly, looking for proof of tasks completed by Penelope Fillon. It emerges she had no security pass or email address.
February 1st
In the new edition of Canard Enchainé, the newspaper changes its original figure of €500,000, now saying Penelope Fillon received a gross sum of €831,440 for her “work” for her husband and his former deputy Marc Jouland as well as for a literary review.
Francois Fillon continues to deny any wrongdoing, dismissing the whole affair as simply “very professional slander”.
MPs in Fillon's Republicans party are starting to get twitchy and there is open talk of a “plan B”. But no one wants to step forward as an alternative to Fillon out of fear of being seen to stab him in the back.
Alain Juppé who lost out to Fillon in the second round of the primary election rules himself out of being a replacement for Fillon, should the candidate decide to quit.
February 2nd 
A video in which Francois Fillon's wife, Penelope, told a British journalist she has “never been the assistant” of her husband was aired on French TV.
Envoyé spécial, a French investigative TV programme, showed the ten-year-old footage of Penelope in which she told the Sunday Telegraph she had not worked for her husband.
“I've never been his assistant,” she reportedly said giving more ammunition to those who believe Fillon has a case to answer.  
February 3rd
Fillon's ratings continue to fall, an Oxoda study for FranceInfo reveals that six out of 10 French people think that he should resign from his presidential bid.
Fillon releases a video on Facebook, speaking to camera he saying he “understands” the “trouble” surrounding the affair but “will stand firm”.
February 6th 
Just when it looks like Fillon will announce he is stepping aside, he uses a hastily organised press conference at his campaign HQ to insist he did nothing wrong and claim his wife's salary was entirely justified.
He did however apologize to the French people, admitting that employing his wife and children was “a mistake”.
“I apologise to the French people,” he said, admitting it was an “error” that he regretted “deeply”. But he steadfastly refused to stand aside.
February 13th
On the eve of Valentine's Day there was more bad news for Fillon as rebel Republican MPs held a meeting to demand a solution to the crisis and the latest polls show his popularity continuing to fall.
As he struggles to relaunch his campaign surveys suggest Fillon will no longer make the second round of the election, but will be beaten by both Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.
February 16th
Much to Fillon's anger the financial prosecutor sends out a statement insisting the probe won't be dropped.
February 18th 
Fillon goes back on his pledge of January 26th and now says even if he is charged he will continue his campaign.
February 24th
An official judicial probe is launched against François Fillon and Penelope and magistrates are put in charge of an investigation into various alleged offences including misuse of public money.
March 1st
Fillon cancels a visit to the international farm show in Paris prompting speculation he is about quit. But once again he surprises everyone and instead comes out fighting.
He does though confirm he will be charged or placed under formal investigation by the magistrates, but the blasts the conspiracy against him.

“The rule of law has been systematically violated,” he said adding “The presumption of innocence has been entirely eliminated.”

“It is indeed a political assassination. But it's not just me they are killing, it is also the presidential election itself.”

“It is the freedom of the vote and democracy that is being violently attacked,” he added.

So what's next…

He is set to meet with magistrates on March 15th where he will be formally placed under official investigation. Fillon is likely to remain under formal investigation until the election, the first round of which is on April 23rd.

His refusal to step aside means he will now have to campaign with a cloud over his head, but he says only the French public can judge him.

We will soon find out what they think.


Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron

The far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen finished top in European elections in France on Sunday, dealing a blow to pro-European President Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen narrowly tops European election polls in France in blow for Macron
Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella. Photo: AFP

Results released on Monday morning by the Ministry of the Interior, which have yet to be formally verified and declared by the National Voting Commission, showed that the far right Rassemblement National (RN) party topped the polls with 23.3 percent of the vote, beating French president Emmanuel Macron's La Republique En Marche.

They were closely followed by Macron's party, which polled 22.4 percent.

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at a polling station in Le Touquet earlier on Sunday. Photo: AFP

The allocation of seats in the European Parliament has been complicated for France by the UK's delayed departure from the EU.

The Parliament had already decided that after Brexit, some of the seats that had been occupied by British MEPs would be reallocated to other countries, with France set to gain an extra five seats

However, last minute delays to Brexit meant that the UK had to take part in the elections, with the result that France will not gain its extra seats until Britain leaves the EU.

On last night's polling results, the RN will get 22 seats in the European parliament immediately, and an extra seat once Britain leaves.

Macron's LREM will get 21 seats now and 23 after the UK leaves.

The green party lead by Yannick Jadot was placed third with 13.4 percent of the vote, gaining 12 seats now and 13 after Brexit. 

The two parties that between them had dominated French politics for decades until the rise of Macron both polled in single figures. Nicolas Sarkozy's old party Les Republicains polled 8.4 percent, while the Socialist party of Francois Hollande was on 6.31 percent, winning them eight and six seats respectively.

Meanwhile the 'yellow vest' candidates scored just 0.54 percent of the vote, below the Animalist party which polled 2.17 percent.

Nathalie Loiseau with LREM party workers. Photo: AFP

Although a total of 34 parties fielded candidates in the European elections in France, the election had largely been framed as a contest between Macron and Le Pen.

Macron's La Republique En Marche party, its list headed by former Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau, was contesting its first European elections.

Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, was hoping to replicate her 2014 European election victory with her Rassemblement National party, its list headed by a political novice, the 23-year-old Jordan Bardella. Bardella called the results a “failure” for the LREM ruling party and sought to portray Macron's defeat as a rejection by voters of his pro-business agenda in France and pro-EU vision.

Macron had made no secret of the significance he attached to the results, telling regional French newspapers last week that the EU elections were the most important for four decades as the union faced an “existential threat”.

Jordan Bardella, head of the RN list. Photo: AFP

He has jumped into the campaign himself in recent weeks, appearing alone on an election poster in a move that analysts saw as exposing him personally if LREM underperformed.

The score of the National Rally is slightly below the level of 2014 when it won 24.9 percent, again finishing top.

Le Pen had placed herself towards the bottom of the RN list, so she will be returning to the European Parliament, where she served as an MEP from 2004 to 2017.

Turnout at the polls in France was the highest in recent years, with 50.12 percent of people voting, significantly up from 35.07 percent in 2014.

Veteran France reporter John Lichfield said: “After six months of 'yellow vest' rebellion, that Macron list has 22 percent is respectable. Much better than President Hollande did in 2014 (14.5 percent).

“But he made the election all about himself and lost. His hopes of emerging as de facto EU leader or enacting more French reforms are damaged.”