Nationalism intensifies

Pieces are falling into place for Marine Le Pen and the Front National.

French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon and his British-born wife Penelope will be indicted for fraud this week and could be sent for criminal trial immediately. The 62-year-olds are currently under investigation for a range of charges including embezzlement after helping themselves to hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of taxpayers’ cash by setting up a series of allegedly fake jobs.

Mrs Fillon, a solicitor’s daughter from Wales, has been ‘fighting tooth and nail’ to prove she was secretly a high-powered parliamentary attaché and literary consultant for decades. But she has provided zero ‘material proof’ to financial prosecutors, who will indict the couple this week, according to leaks from the enquiry published today by the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

This could prove fatal to the conservative Mr Fillon’s increasingly desperate campaign to become head of state following a two-round election this Spring. After almost two week of detailed enquiries, the PNF financial prosecuting unit will release its conclusions this week. They will certainly call for a criminal prosecution, and this could take the form of ‘a direct summons to criminal court,’ the newspaper reports. Both Fillons face more than a decade each in prison if found guilty.

Le Pen will still face the challenge of winning the second round, when the mainstream parties will join forces and attempt to keep the Front National out of power. However, the fact that this is their second candidate to go down in flames tends to indicate that they don’t have anyone credible behind whom they can present a united front.

The Front National’s victory is still very far from a certainty, but it is starting to look every bit as possible as Brexit or President Trump.