Ever since the revelation on January 25, 2017 in the satirical French weekly newspaper, Le Canard Enchaîné, regarding François Fillon’s employment of his wife, Pénélope, as a parliamentary assistant, and his two children while the 2017 Right and Center Presidential candidate was senator, French society and observers have debated the relationship between ethics and law in politics.
According to Le Canard Enchaîné, these jobs were fictional…yet this still needs to be proven in the respect of the presumption of innocence.
Up until now, Mr. Fillon has defended himself in the media against these accusations by saying that what he did was absolutely legal. However, he still publicly apologized for these acts of nepotism by admitting that it was “a mistake.” “Working with one’s family in politics is a practice now rejected by the French. What was acceptable yesterday is no longer today” (Les Echos, February 6, 2017).
Acknowledging that he will be investigated in mid-March by the examining magistrates, further to the legal information presented by the Parquet national financier, Mr. Fillon declared on March 2, 2017 that he would not remove himself from the race and would remain a candidate.
Once again, this investigation does not necessarily mean a conviction. Yet, let’s not forget Karim Benzema, the French football player, who was not chosen to play on the French World Cup team due to his investigation in a sex tape scandal. The French Football Federation wanted football players wearing the French jersey to be exemplary individuals, untarnished by judicial proceedings or unethical suspicions.
In the end, the ethical judgment was the deciding factor in the Benzema affair…while as of now, legal reasoning seems to be winning out for Fillon.