The French are demanding change in the face of corruption

The first law that will be introduced under Emmanuel Macron, the new President of the French Republic, will be about ethics in public life. The bill is currently being drafted, so that it can be adopted in the next few weeks by the future parliament. It shows just how much this issue struck a chord with public opinion during a particularly bitter presidential campaign. It continues to be the focus of attention in the run-up to the legislative elections on 11 and 18 June.

The last few months have seen the revelation of several financial scandals, notably those concerning François Fillon, the right-wing candidate, and Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate. Let us look at some of the facts: François Fillon was accused of giving fictional posts to people close to him, as parliamentary aides, and of accepting gifts of bespoke suits worth tens of thousands of euros from a lawyer friend (at the heart of the “Françafrique” networks. (Ed.: see below).

Marine Le Pen, meanwhile, has also been the subject of an inquiry into bogus jobs as well as illegal funding for her electoral campaign. But there have been many other scandals, concerning for example former president Nicolas Sarkozy, National Assembly member Thomas Thevenoud, senator and businessman Serge Dassault, National Assembly member Patrick Balkany, as well as UBS France, HSBC…

These scandals have exacerbated the feeling that they are “all corrupt” and the crisis of confidence in politicians, already well established in France. Only 11 per cent of the French said they trusted the political parties in a survey in January 2017 by Cevipof. Seventy five per cent of those questioned also agreed that “As a general rule, France’s elected representatives and political leaders are fairly corrupt.”

This climate of suspicion surrounding its political representatives puts France in a bad position when ranked in terms of corruption. In 2016 the NGO
Transparency International ranked France 23rd out of 168 countries, just ahead of the Bahamas, Chile and the United Arab Emirates. Seven neighbouring European countries by contrast (including Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany) are in the top ten.

Why is France, known as the “homeland of human rights”, unable to set an example, or at least do as well as its European neighbours?


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