The breaking point of corruption?
This campaign has seen an unprecedented level of public anger and fury over exposed corruption in France, so much so that analysts are projecting that the public may finally have done with the traditional political classes, and have reached a breaking point in tolerating the excesses and frivolities of parliamentary leaders and government ministers. This is excellent news for parties like the Federalists, which have long been run on a platform of transparency and real conservatism.
Fillon built his campaign asking the public to tighten their belts in any number of ways. He called for increased working hours, decreased spending on public services, and told voters that this was the necessary costs of the economic stagnation that has gripped Europe.
So it was more shocking than ever that this bastion of “common-sense” economic conservatism was himself part of an appalling display of waste and greed. The French public are well-used to corruption, but like many things in French society, it has only been tolerated out of sight.
It is also true that the French public have never been asked to sacrifice their holiday time and social programs under the past two presidencies, so there is a certain bitter irony to being told to tighten one’s belt at a time when leaders are ostentatious in their frippery.
Fillon was publicly exposed to have paid his wife close to one million Euro for work she did not perform in his office, as evidenced by the fact that she lacked a government email, an official post, or even a spot in his office. The full scandal and the reaction to it are detailed here, along with an excellent summary of the history of modern corruption in French politics: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/03/world/europe/francois-fillon-scandal-france-politics.html
Political analysts are speculating that while scandals of this kind are nothing new in French politics, this may mark a turning point, given the rise of anti-establishment and populist sentiments all over Western Europe and America.
Tired of EU bureaucrats making regulatory decisions and demanding a free flow of migrants and workers through Britain, the UK voted to leave the EU. This was a reaction to several factors, but in many ways public sentiment hinged on disgust at how much money was sent from the UK to the central EU government each year, for little apparently in return. The EU’s central government has become a figurehead of corruption and bureaucracy that ignores the needs and wishes of working people in Europe.
In America, the same corruption and bureaucracy was rejected in spirit over the last campaign season. Few politicians have been more obvious faces of corruption than Hillary Clinton, who had become notorious for her million-dollar speeches to large financial institutions and for hacked email content which showed her plans to appoint cabinet ministers and officials directly from the organizations which contributed most to her campaign. The election is also a clear reaction to the corporatist policies of Barack Obama, under which no banker was ever jailed for the world financial crisis which we are still dealing with, and large corporations wrote trade pacts with little to no oversight from environmental or economic regulators, which is why they were so protested in Europe.
While the Federalist Party’s general view is that the sentiment was usurped by a sham government full of even more staggering cases of corruption, it cannot be argued that Western voters are sick and tired of the same old, same old cycle of corrupt politicians acting against the interest of average people.
Sadly, Fillon is just another example in the grand French tradition of corruption. President Hollande was exposed to have spent thousands of tax dollars on each of his haircuts, more appalling less for the cost than for the pointlessness of dressing up his combover.
In any case this change in the tide, in which voters are becoming vastly more aware of the scale and degree of corruption at work in French politics will only be good for our party in the current election and in seasons to come. We must work to show ourselves to be the more productive populist alternative to the National Front and other extreme parties, and to varnish our own credentials of transparency and economic policies driven by the needs of the average voters instead of large multinational corporations.