French Presidential wannabe François Fillon is more distrusted by voters than ever, a new poll has shown, after the right-wing candidate was put under formal investigation over claims he created three fake parliamentary aide jobs for family members.
The poll, released this morning by Odoxa for FranceInfo, revealed nine out of 10 French see the former favourite as “not honest”, while 75 per cent think he should withdraw from the race altogether.
Fake jobs or fake news?
After six weeks of speculation triggered by an investigation by satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaîné, Fillon was placed under formal investigation by French authorities on Tuesday for the misuse of public funds.
He is alleged to have paid his Welsh-born wife Penelope at least €680,000 over 15 years for parliamentary assistant work there is no sign she ever completed.
Payments made to his children Marie and Charles while he was senator have also come under scrutiny: reports allege significant amounts were transferred directly back to Fillon’s bank account.
Fillon is unwilling to step down, dismissing the allegations as a "political assassination", although unlike rival Marine Le Pen, who also faces charges of misusing public money, he is cooperating with judges.
Fillon is currently trailing behind both far-right Marine Le Pen and centrist Macron in the latest poll, with just 19 per cent of voting intentions in the first round, according to an Idop-Fiducia poll.
Out of the 1,006 people interviewed in this morning’s Odoxa poll, 78 per cent had a bad opinion of Fillon, compared with just 54 per cent last November before the fake jobs scandal broke.
However, Gaël Sliman, President of the Odoxa Institute, told Franceinfo Fillon’s popularity has been falling more slowly than last month.
“We have the feeling of reaching the hard core of supporters still loyal to him.”
A family affair
The use of family members as parliamentary aides and assistants is fast becoming a hot political topic in the UK too, with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority's announcement on Wednesday that MPs will be banned from hiring relatives and spouses from 2020.
Some 135 British MPs including Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling currently employ family members in Parliament.