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    'Kompromat' Wars Unleashed in France Ahead of Presidential Election

    © AFP 2019 / Bertrand Guay
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    With the onset of 2017, the Russian word “Kompromat” has become popular in France where local media are busily emulating the method of manipulating public opinion, which Russian intelligence organizations allegedly go for. Sputnik offers a shortlist of scandals unfolding around the frontrunners in the ongoing presidential campaign.

    Francois Fillon and #PenelopeGate

    The financial prosecutor's office opened a preliminary investigation after the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported that Fillon’s wife Penelope drew was on the payroll as his assistant but never actually worked.

    According to the publication, Penelope Fillon had been paid about 500,000 euros ($536,000) for many years of employment as a parliamentary assistant to her husband, who was at that time a parliamentary deputy from Sarthe, and later to his assistant, Marc Joulaud.

    Francois Fillon, a right-wing former prime minister and the frontrunner in the April-May election, has admitted that his wife, Penelope, had worked for him when he was a lawmaker, but fiercely denied that she earned a big salary for work she never did.

    ​Je vois que la séquence des boules puantes est ouverte. Je suis scandalisé par le mépris et la misogynie de cet article. pic.twitter.com/ve7AAHT5cS

    ​When asked about the lack of evidence of Penelope Fillon’s professional activity when she worked for her husband, Thierry Solère, Benoist Apparu and other members of Fillon’s team said that “Penelope worked in the shadows because she is not used to “shoving herself forward.”

    Meanwhile, the unfolding scandal cast a shadow on her husband who is seen as a favorite in the upcoming presidential elections.

    Emmanuel Macron stealing public funds?

    In a recent address to the National Assembly, Philippe Vigier, the leader of the parliamentary faction of the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI), said that he was seeking “clarifications” from the centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron about his use of public funds during his stint as Economic Minister.

    Macron is suspected of using the money to finance his presidential campaign.

    ​According to an article in Le Gigaro, Emmanuel Macron allegedly used 80 percent of the representational expenses annually allocated by the Economic Ministry for his personal expenses.

     Marine Le Pen asked to give back money

    The EU Parliament’s European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has asked French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to reimburse nearly €340,000 ($364,000) paid to two of her National Front aides who allegedly carried out party business at the Parliament’s expense.

    A bonus for NF’s enemies

    The National Front, which presents itself as a party going against the system and which is always quick to lambaste its rivals for the misuse of public funds, now keeps mum about similar charges being brought against its main rival, Francois Fillon.

    Did Benoit Hamon ask for money from the Qataris?

    Alexis Bachelay, the press-secretary for the Socialist presidential hopeful and former Education Minister Benoit Hamon, is believed to have asked money from Qatar to finance his boss’ effort to win a seat in the National Assembly.

    After winning in the first round of Socialist primaries, Benoit Hamon and his team now find themselves in the spotlight of public attention.

    Why ask money from Qatar?

    Alexis Bachelay said that “40,000 euros ($43,000) is the maximum you can get for a campaign, and half of this sum is paid for by the state. In 2012 I borrowed 20,000 euros ($21,000) plus 8,000 ($8,500) or 9,000 ($9,500) of my own money and what we got from our supporters. Individuals are not allowed to donate more than 7,500.”

    “These reporters have no idea how our electoral system works,”   he added.

    Violations during Socialist primaries: cheats or dilettantes?

    There were suspicions about the organizers messing with voter turnout results arose already on the day after the first round of the Socialist primaries. This did not change the final outcome though.

    Christophe Borgel, chairman of the organizing committee, spoke about a “computer glitch” but admitted that he had asked to publish the fake results before the final figures had been checked.

    The French presidential elections will take place in April and May 2017.

    Various polls indicate that Francois Fillon is likely to face off with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen from the National Front. The ruling Socialist Party is lagging far behind after its popularity plunged during President Francois Hollande's term.

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    Tags:
    election campaign, "kompromat", fraud, accusations, The Republicans, French Socialist Party, National Front, Hollande, Benoit Hamon, Emmanuel Macron, Marine Le Pen, Francois Fillon, France
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