French presidential frontrunner François Fillon has come under pressure to justify why he employed his Welsh wife as a parliamentary aide and specify what work she did for him.
Mr Fillon, who won the centre-right presidential nomination in November on a vow to restore high moral standards in French politics, is facing claims from a weekly French satirical newspaper that his wife Penelope Fillon earned a total of €500,000 over eight years as an aide but did little work.
The money was drawn from public funds allocated to each MP to hire staff and paid when Mr Filllon was a lawmaker in the National Assembly and later when she was employed by the man who replaced him.
French MPs receive funds from the state to hire aides and it is not illegal to employ family members. Other French politicians have employed their wives, who tend to accompany their husbands to public events. But Le Canard Enchaîné claims that there was little evidence of the work that Ms Fillon did, citing another former parliamentary employee.
A campaign representative for Mr Fillon confirmed on French radio that Ms Fillon worked for the politician as parliamentary aide and insisted that she did work.
Mr Fillon, who polls suggest might qualify for the presidential runoff in May against far-right Marine Le Pen, won his Republican party’s nomination in November after unexpectedly beating former president Nicolas Sarkozy and former prime minister Alain Juppé in open primary elections. His stance on traditional, Christian values and his attacks on Mr Sarkozy’s legal woes drew support from Catholic voters.
Le Canard Enchaîné also claimed Ms Fillon allegedly earned about €100,000 as literary adviser to Revue des deux Mondes, a publication owned by Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, a billionaire friend of the Fillon family.
Mr Fillon’s campaign representative confirmed Mrs Fillon worked for the publication. The FT was unable to reach the Fillons for comment on the Le Canard Enchaîné claims.
The Fillons married in 1980 and have five children. In an interview before he won nomination for the centre-right last November, Mr Fillon emphasised the importance of family, saying he would never allow politics to encroach on his private life.
Ms Fillon also has tried to shun the limelight, telling the Telegraph in 2007 that she would often walk on the other side of the street when in public with her husband. “I’m just a country peasant, this is not my natural habitat,” she said.
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