Month: August 2019

The Gilets Jaunes 1: The First Three Weeks

The Gilets Jaunes 1: The First Three Weeks

On August 24, 2019 the Gilets Jaunes accomplished Acte 41.  Relatively few people turned out; the movement has been hampered for some weeks both by the dangerous heat wave of summer and by the August vacation season–and, implicitly, I suspect, by the possibility of a 

Summer, the Sixties, and Françoise Dorléac, 1942-1967

Summer, the Sixties, and Françoise Dorléac, 1942-1967

In 1964, two movies were among those in competition at the Cannes Film Festival: The Soft Skin, directed by François Truffaut; and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, directed by Jacques Demy, which took the prize.  The first starred Françoise Dorléac. The second starred Catherine Deneuve.  They 

Fillon II: Last Chance at Trocadéro

Fillon II: Last Chance at Trocadéro

 Just before the European elections in May 2019, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe suggested that Les Républicains were engaged in “reconstructing the Trocadéro Right” behind François Xavier Bellamy, the socially conservative head of their list. Deputy Eric Ciotti of the LRs fired back, saying that Philippe’s comment was what one might expect from someone who served in the government of a former socialist (i.e. President Emmanuel Macron, who was Minister of Economics in President François Hollande’s government; Édouard Philippe had once been a leading LR). “To understand this expression,” stated Le Journal du Dimanche, in rather professorial fashion, “let us return to the presidential campaign and to March 5, 2017, the day of the meeting at the Place du Trocadéro” (Le Journal du Dimanche, May 14, 2019).

And so, dear reader, we shall. 

The meeting at Trocadéro was François Fillon’s last ditch effort to save his presidential candidacy from Penelopegate, an unfolding scandal that had engulfed his entire campaign. Riding high after a surprise victory in the LR primary, he had suddenly been shattered by the revelations in Le Canard Enchaîné on January 25, 2019, which revealed that Penelope Fillon, his wife, had been paid for her work as his assistant, the sum eventually reported as around 800,000 euros. Her job was taxpayer-funded, and there was no evidence that she had done anything to earn her money. (See previous post, “François and Penelope.”) Behind the scenes Fillon was being urged to step down, but refused to do so on the grounds that he had won the primary and represented the will of voters of the right and center. He contested the legitimacy of the investigation being carried out by the Parquet national financier (PNF), a specialized high court. He attacked the impartiality of the judges as well as the media, in intemperate statements that alienated many of those within his party.

On February 28, 2019, Fillon was informed that both he and his wife would be indicted in March. It didn’t help that he had taunted his primary opponents, Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé, for having been indicted (and in Juppé’s case, convicted) for campaign finance violations: “Can one imagine General de Gaulle under indictment?” He had also pledged, in his initial public statement about the affair on January 26, that if he were indicted he would step down. Now, a month later, he was no longer willing to do so. Whether he had convinced himself of the reality of the supposed conspiracy, whether he was delusional about the seriousness of the charges, whether he found himself simply too close to achieving his presidential ambitions to give them up, was unclear.

Background: the mise en examen, which Fillon was facing on March 15, occurs after a preliminary examination by police and an investigating magistrate, and it means that there is sufficient evidence to move forward with prosecution. There are two types of evidence uncovered: à charge, which points toward guilt; and à décharge, which is exculpatory. Fillon frequently complained, in the following weeks, that the investigation had been exclusively à charge, but that was demonstrably not true, since the initial police interviews had included many old friends and employees.

The term mise en examen is frequently translated as “indictment,” which is close but not identical, because the French system is not the same (see Mise en examen.) It means, in practical terms, that one has not been cleared of wrongdoing but, as noted above, there is enough evidence indicating guilt to continue with, rather than dismiss, the case. It means that the investigation also will continue, with the possibility of new revelations. It is, in short, a legal stage that may eventually lead to a trial, a conviction and a penalty. (Fillon and his wife were recently scheduled for a September trial in the tribunal correctionnel, for lesser felonies and misdemeanors; this court can hand down sentences that include imprisonment.)

With these serious legal hurdles in view, Fillon needed something to show that he was still in the game: so he made the potentially risky decision to call upon his supporters to mobilize at the Place du Trocadéro on March 5. To gain this public relations victory, he stepped away from the center right of his party, and appealed to what we in the United States might call (or who call themselves) “values voters,” those who had been energized by what they perceived as the attack by Hollande’s government on traditional marriage.  The Trocadéro Right, in other words, were those who had initially mobilized themselves against same-sex marriage, in the Manif pour tous demonstrations against the 2013 law that legalized it, and now formed a socially conservative organization called Sens commun within the LRs.

Before this new development, Fillon had been hoping for a good week in the farmlands of France. It was the time of the annual Salon de l’agriculture, or farm show, held in Paris. It is de rigueur for sitting presidents and candidates to attend. Judging purely from youtube films of past years, President Jacques Chirac seemed to enjoy himself enormously, eating and drinking his way through the halls; Macron gets into heated arguments with fellow attendees. The ambiance in the large hall at the Porte de Versailles is one of crowds, hay, and livestock, including a yearly cow mascot. (See the English language version of the Salon de l’agriculture site.)

From the 2019 Salon, the largest international agricultural show. From Shutterstock.com.

In the weeks since the revelations, Fillon had appeared only before handpicked crowds, had stopped disclosing his exact travel plans in advance so no one would be waiting for him, and above all had avoided places where he might be in range of shouted questions about Penelope.  The press had noted this. His staff promised that the Salon de l’Agriculture would change all that: “He wants to see the farmers, shake their hands, and faire des selfies,” confided one of his inner circle (Goar and Lemarié, pp. 176-177).  At 7:30 a.m. on March 1, Wednesday morning, numerous reporters and Fillon supporters were gathered for his arrival, when word came at 8 a.m. that he wasn’t coming; none of his supporters had any explanation.  The journalists realized that something was up.  There were rumors, more or less fantastic–an attempted suicide by Penelope was one (Goar and Lemarié, p. 178). Or perhaps he was going to withdraw? At this point, no one beyond his small inner circle knew about the indictment.

Patrick Stefanini, his campaign manager and co-author of Déflagration (with the journalist Carole Barjon), provided some backstage context.  Fillon had been informed on the morning of February 28, a Tuesday, that he would be formally mis en examen on March 15, and Penelope about 10 days after that.

Fillon told Stefanini and LR Bruno Retailleau, the latter one of his closest supporters, on the afternoon of the 28th.  At first Fillon felt the full impact: “This changes everything” (Stefanini, p. 34). Within a very short time he had apparently talked himself into thinking that it did not really mean so much, or at least did not mean the end.  On the following day, March 1, he had the Farm Show and would also receive the endorsement of Jean-Christophe Lagarde, of the UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents), a major centrist group; Lagarde would give an interview to Le Monde and would have a public meeting with Fillon on Thursday.  On the evening of the 28th, Stefanini spoke with Lagarde about logistical details for the joint announcement without telling him of the coming indictment–that, he said rather defensively, was a matter that concerned Fillon alone; his co-author disagreed (Stefanini, p. 35). The disorganization and especially the lack of clear thinking was obvious within the Fillon camp.

By Tuesday evening on February 28, Fillon had decided not to go to the Agricultural Show; Stefanini ordered someone to send texts to his political supporters, many of whom did not read them; apparently the reporters received no advance warning. And none of the texts gave any hint of the coming indictment (Stefanini, p. 36). In the midst of the confusion, Fillon soon announced that he would make a statement later that morning. He spoke to a number of his closest associates, breaking the news to them (and keeping the press waiting), and finally, the strain evident on his face, made the following remarks.

Declaration of François Fillon, live-streamed by Ruptly, RT France, on March 1, 2017; published on Youtube.

Mesdames et Messieurs, 

My lawyer has been informed that I have been summoned for March 15 by the juge d’instruction [investigating magistrate Serge Tournaire] to be indicted.  This action is without precedent in an affair of this importance: that a summons for the purpose of an indictment is issued only a few days after the appointment of the judges, when they could not yet have examined the dossier (without foreknowledge), nor proceeded to any supplementary investigations, on the simple basis of a police report, clearly à charge.  The only similar cases are those where individuals acknowledge the facts [laid out against them] and ask to be charged so they can have access to the [prosecution’s] dossier.  

But I do not acknowledge the [allegations]; I have not misappropriated public money.  Like nearly a third of my colleagues, I entrusted some work to members of my family because I knew I could count on their trustworthiness and competence.  They did in fact assist me and I will prove it.

This summons comes from a line of inquiry that from the beginning was exclusively aimed at finding evidence of guilt rather than exculpatory evidence.  Contrary to what has been said, I was not treated like everyone else. The preliminary inquiry was opened only a few hours [after the Le Canard Enchaîné story], and the witness statements, contrary to the law, were immediately communicated to the press.  The Minister of Justice [Garde des sceaux] took no action [in regard to this leak]. The law was systematically violated. The press made itself the echo of the prosecutors and of them alone. The factual arguments that I presented were neither listened to nor reported.  The legal arguments presented by eminent professors of law, by a former secretary general of the Conseil Constitutionnel, were put aside with a wave of the hand.

The presumption of innocence has completely and entirely disappeared.  For I am not a defendant like any other. One can see this by the simple choice of the date, March 15, two days before the closing of the parrainages–entirely calculated to prevent me from being a presidential candidate, and beyond that, to prevent the right and the center from having a candidate [in the race].  [Note: the parrainages are the 500 signatures, from mayors or various local and regional elected officials, needed by individual candidates to qualify to run for president.] My lawyers asked the Court of Appeals to rule immediately on the numerous and serious irregularities of the procedure, and they were refused. A number of my political friends, and those who supported me in the primary, and the four million voters, are talking about a “political assassination.”

It is, in fact, an assassination, but with this disproportional and unprecedented outburst, and with the choice of this calendar date, I am not the only one who is being assassinated–so is the presidential election; so are the voters of the right and center who are being destroyed, so are the voices of millions who want a true alternative, and who are being muzzled.  The plan that I bring for a national recovery is being expelled from the debate. The freedom of the vote and democracy itself are being violently attacked.

I want there to be no doubt in this regard–I will go to the summons by the judges.  I respect our institutions. I don’t despair of justice, even if what we have just seen is not such as to reassure us.  I will tell the judges my truth, which is THE truth, but today, it’s to you, my dear compatriots, that I address myself.  Beyond the judicial procedure, it’s the French people, and to them alone, that I call upon henceforth–to those who follow me as well as to those who fight me. It’s to the French people alone that I give myself, because only universal suffrage, and not a process slanted towards guilt, can decide who will be the next president of the Republic.  I will not yield, I will not give up, I will not withdraw, I will go on to the end, because beyond myself, it’s democracy itself that is being challenged.  

I ask you to follow me.  It’s not a matter of me personally, or of the law, or of the presumption of innocence: it’s about you, whose sovereign will cannot be annulled, annihilated, or destroyed.  I will be at the rendez-vous that democracy alone gives us to choose our collective future [the election]. I will be there, with a redoubled determination; I will not permit the sole choice that we are collectively given to be that between the extreme right and the continuation of Hollandisme [Le Pen and Macron respectively].

I do not accept that we are being led, step by step, to renunciation, decline, and the forgetting of what makes our national greatness.  France is greater than we are; France is greater than my mistakes. It is greater than the bias of much of the press, it is greater than the vagaries of public opinion, and it is because I am totally dedicated to serving THIS France, that I will oppose, with all my strength, the possibility that chance or calculation will decide the fate and future of the French at the moment of the decisive consultation.  I say to you in all seriousness to resist: do not allow any person to deprive you of your choice, because your voice alone should decide our common future, and because my will to serve is greater than the accusations that are brought against me. I and my family will [stand fast], in spite of all the pain. My political family will [as well], along with all those who believe that in the end, only the people can decide.  

Yes, I will be a candidate for the presidency of the Republic, and we will take from these hardships–with all that they include, both just and unjust–the increased strength that we need to win and to reform our country.  I thank you.

His audible sigh at the end added to the desperation of the message.

He had now gone whole-hog, one might say, after both the press and the judiciary. The PNF was conducting a judicial “murder,” a political prosecution designed to get him out of the race and to nullify the votes of the four million people who had voted in the primary, some 66% of them for him. Their collaborators were the press–biased, leftist, reporting every allegation against him as fact. Many of his supporters as well as opponents were deeply concerned by those demagogic attacks on two essential institutions.

After this speech, Fillon decided to go to the Salon de l’Agriculture after all; he is scarcely visible, but the microphones, moving like a wave through the hall (past the sheep) give an indication of his progress. He had some supporters; others were yelling at him to “give back the cash, thief!”

“François Fillon Booed and Insulted at the Salon de l’Agriculture,” posted by L’Express, March 1, 2017.

He had hoped that the week would be better than this. But the fallout–to the revelation of the indictment, to his manner of defense, and to his refusal to quit–was immediate, and shown in a series of abrupt resignations.

Bruno Le Maire, a prominent LR and his international affairs advisor, quit on March 1 (Reuters, March 2, 2007).  

Gilles Boyer, treasurer for the campaign, quit on March 2 (Reuters, March 2, 2017).

Sébastien Lecornu, deputy campaign director, also left on March 2 (Reuters, March 2, 2017).  On the same day, two prominent LRs in the Juppé wing of the party announced that they could no longer support Fillon: Benoist Apparu, now a spokesman for Fillon, and Édouard Philippe, currently prime minister under Macron (20minutes, March 2, 2017).

Nevertheless Fillon continued with his plans for another agricultural day in Gard, as he observed France’s vineyards, accompanied by deputies Valerie Boyer, Eric Ciotti, and Luc Chatel.  Goer and Lemarié of Le Monde described what happened then as a “forced march” around the vineyards, which Libération reporters timed at four minutes. Two young vignerons of the region presented Fillon with some of the local specialties: “Good, you’re going to explain all that to me,” he said, then abruptly turned his back on them and walked away.  Asked about the many defections in his campaign by the journalists running to keep up: “Your questions are only of interest to you,” and then, “I never speak while walking, you should know that.” Valerie Boyer expressed hope of a “hidden” Fillon vote in the countryside that had somehow escaped the polls.  Fillon said tersely, “la base tient,” “the base is holding” (Libération, March 2, 2017).

During the evening of March 2, Fillon gave a defiant speech in Nîmes to a large and cheering crowd, denouncing the extreme violence of the press attacks, “the machine for grinding up, the machine of scoops and rumors”(Libération, March 2, 2017). “You have before you a fighter,” he said–and indeed they did, and the crowd responded to what his supporters were now calling “courage” in the face of extraordinary trials. But one can also see, throughout this short clip, the anxious faces of the men in suits (LR deputy Eric Ciotti in particular, at 57 seconds) who were still with him, as they looked around the hall to see if the base was, indeed, holding.

Published by François Fillon, March 5 of his March 2 speech at Nîmes, 2017.

Of course crowd size is always an issue. Before the speech BFMTV interviewed Valerie Boyer, deputy and Fillon stalwart, who stated, at about 59 seconds in, that “there is no plan B”–that is, no other candidate–and stated at about 1 minute 23 seconds that the hall was full, to the audible disbelief of the interviewers.

“Valerie Boyer: François Fillon ne peut pas renoncer ‘car il n’y a pas de plan B’,” BFMTV, March 2, 2017, on Youtube.

On March 3, the day after Nîmes, his campaign director Patrick Stefanini resigned from the campaign by means of a letter that he made public.

Let me repeat that: his campaign director, a prefect as well as a longtime political operative and campaign manager with the LRs, resigned. The letter listed two reasons: the mise en examen, which would prevent him from being an effective candidate and would actually deprive the conservatives of their voice; and, more bluntly, “your defeat on the evening of the first round can no longer be excluded”–or to put it another way, “you can’t win” (Stefanini, Annexe).

Chief spokesman Thierry Solère, one of the most visible members of the Fillon campaign, tweeted his resignation, also on March 3 (Libération, March 3, 2017).

Jean-Christophe Lagarde of the UDI formally withdrew his support on March 3, and urged the LRs to get a new candidate (france24, March 3, 2017)

The idea of the big public meeting on Sunday, March 5, that became Trocadéro had come originally from Stefanini, his campaign manager, after he discovered Fillon was about to be indicted; though Stefanini had been thinking of resignation, and did resign two days later, he justified his suggestion later as the work of a good soldier.  “Faced with an event as heavy in its consequences as the indictment of the candidate, I sought some means of reacting politically and taking up media space” (Stefanini, p. 34). In other words, Stefanini had been responding in contradictory ways to a situation that had knocked him flat, and was later trying to rationalize his actions

There was another meeting on the eve of Trocadéro, planned earlier, at the Docks of Paris at Aubervilliers. Mediapart, in attendance, described Fillon as “sleep-walking” through the themes of his campaign.  It was his birthday; in a moment of humor, he noted that he had had “better birthdays,” and would have better birthdays in the future. More lively was Bruno Retailleau, LR deputy from the Vendée, a jusqu’au boutiste (dead-ender) who had just become the campaign director with the resignation of Stefanini.  He stated that Fillon “had never been the candidate of the société-politico-médiatique”–he was, in other words, an outsider, this man who had been in the National Assembly since 1981, had held several ministerial positions, and had been prime minister for five years.  Retailleau also invoked a “lynching, a fury without precedent in the history of the Fifth Republic.” Mediapart’s reporter Lucie Delaporte was observed by those around her, some of them willing to talk someone from the leftist journal. Henri, a retiree, as many in the crowd were, saw what had happened as “a cabal orchestrated by Hollande and by left-wing judges”  (Mediapart, March 4, 2017).

The meeting at Aubervilliers took place in conjunction with the Société civile of Aubervilliers, a local civic and business group of the sort that Fillon had been cultivating since 2015 (Stefanini, p. 160). It began in the same way as all his other meetings–the upbeat theme music, the impersonal shaking of hands, the smiles, the applause that mostly faded before the music ended. Were they all sick of the staging, the speeches, the pretense of a candidacy that was still alive?

François Fillon website, “Rassemblement de la société civile autour de François Fillon, March 4, 2017, at the Docks de Paris at Aubervilliers. published on Youtube.

Fillon now relied on the “Trocadéro right”–the Sens commun miniparty within the party, the militant Catholic right wing.  Virginie Tellenne, a humorist formerly known as Frigide Barjot, had in 2013 become an activist against the Taubira law, Mariage pour tous (Marriage for all), that legalized same-sex marriage.  She had launched a change.org petition on February 3, 2017, called Fillon tient bon (reported in Mediapart, March 3, 2017), which obtained 31,576 signatures.  Another hastily launched online petition urged supporters to go to the Trocadéro meeting.  Madeleine de Jessey, spokesman and prominent member of Sens Commun, had mobilized the “Cathosphere” around Fillon.  And it was not simply about same-sex marriage: the same group mobilized against PMA (Procréation médicalement assistée, or in-vitro fertilization), and against GPA (gestation pour autrui, or surrogacy) (Mediapart, March 3, 2017). Other activists, however, announced that they were staying away because of the attacks on judges and the media.  Christine Boutin, who had been a part of the anti-PACS movement–PACS is the name given to an earlier law for marriage by civil contract, meant for same-sex couples but not limited to them–was going to skip the meeting, as was Jean-Frédéric Poisson of the Christian Democratic Party, a former Housing Minister, who had announced his support for Fillon, but had also annnounced that he would not attend (Mediapart, March 3, 2017).

So here’s what happened.

From Force Républicaine, Fillon’s organization

His campaign spokesman, Bruno Retailleau, exuberantly announced a crowd of “200,000!” The police reported that the square held at most 40,000 (to which the answer was that the people were cramming the side streets). Whatever: it was a big crowd. And it saved his candidacy. His brief video, posted on his website, packaged the main events of the afternoon, aside from the rain and wind. He was not “alone,” as his detractors had hoped. He made an open call to the “militants” of France, aligning himself with the most extreme social conservatives in the party, and a minority within the party. He had wanted to focus on a restructuring of the economy; now he was of necessity offering himself to a fringe group, at least at that time, within the LRs, and to their culture war preoccupations.

François Fillon website, “Merci à vous qui êtes les militants de la France!” Published March 6, 2017, on Youtube.

Penelope, who was present at this event, had finally broken her silence, in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche that appeared on Sunday, March 5. The headline was her statement that “I told him he should go all the way”; more important was her explanation for why she was finally speaking: “To say: I am here; I have always been here; I will always be here. I have been with François for 36 years, and I will stand by him for as long as we shall live” (Le Journal du Dimanche, March 5, 2017). Asked if she wanted him to be elected: “Only he can be president.  His being capable of enduring this proves remarkable courage.  He is the only candidate with the experience, the vision, the program, and the determination required to lead France.”  From her personal perspective: “I adapt to anything. And I would be proud to accompany him on that mission, and I shall accompany him whatever, wherever, he goes” (Le Journal du Dimanche, March 5, 2017). She was, at last, on message.

Yves de Kerdrel, writing for the conservative journal Valeurs Actuelles, promoted the line that Fillon himself hoped would take him to the second round: courage in the face of adversity.  “For the last six weeks he has given proof of a courage beyond measure. At the same time he has had to face the steamroller of media and judiciary, react to what has rightly been called an attempted political assassination, and defeat the maneuvers of a very great part of his political family, who want to send him to Saint-Helena, forgetting, by the way, that he won the votes of nearly three million voters on the right [the primary].  He has had to stand up to the mockery against him when he revealed his Christian faith. We now know that if two or three million protesters are out in the streets against him, he will have the courage not to break. He will have the courage to speak to Trump, Merkel, Putin” (Valeurs actuelles, March 9, 2019).

The rest of his party largely separated themselves from him, and began to focus on the National Assembly races that would come in June, after the May presidential election, which they regarded as lost. They did not join him at Trocadéro. Except for Valerie Boyer in a rain hood, in her usual post behind his right shoulder, and Bruno Retailleau, Eric Ciotti and other stalwarts, most of the prominent deputies and senators of the LRs stayed away–with the exception of François Baroin, a supporter of Sarkozy who was briefly floated as a possible “Plan B,” and who was embarrassingly visible just behind Fillon’s left shoulder. He later tried to suggest to an openly amused Jean-Jacques Bourdin that he had come to Trocadéro because he believed that Fillon was going to announce that he was leaving the race.

François Baroin with Jean-Jacques Bourdin, BFMTV, published June 15, 2017, on Youtube.

LR deputy Georges Fenech, the first to call upon Fillon to step down, was frustrated with the young(ish) leaders of the party, namely Baroin himself and Laurent Wauquiez, who became head of the LRs after the election: “In the end, neither of these two talents of the new generation would have the audacity of a Macron launched on his conquering “March” (Fenech, p. 28). Alain Juppé, who had come in well behind Fillon in the primary, announced on March 6 that he would not be Plan B either; born in 1945, he also knew that the presidential window had now closed on him forever.

One of the most thoughtful analyses of the meaning of Trocadéro was by Ellen Salvi, in Mediapart.  Writing just days after the event, she suggested that two fundamental facts had emerged.  First, and of lesser importance, Trocadéro meant that Fillon could stay in the race. Second, and more seriously, it meant that the old UMP coalition (the party’s name before being changed to Les Républicains) no longer held.  Subsequent events have shown the accuracy of that prediction, as the LRs have fallen apart. UMP, or Union pour un mouvement populaire, had been founded on April 21, 2002, as a coalition of all the various parties in the center right and right.  The polarizing effect of Sarkozy had caused some to splinter away–for example the UDI, or Union of democrats and independents (those who had been prepared to endorse Fillon on March 2) (Mediapart, March 10, 2017).

The militants of Sens commun now had a “preponderant role in his campaign,” according to Salvi.  They had made Trocadéro a success; their political action group l’Avant-Garde, led by its co-founders, Charles Millon and Charles Beigbeder, had also been prominently in attendance at the March 4 meeting at Aubervilliers.  Beigbeder had appeared on BFMTV; questioned about the loss of centrist support, he suggested that it was actually a good thing that the UDI had left, because they and other centrists were a lot closer to Macron in ideological terms: “One is going to have a campaign headquarters cleared of perturbateurs, purified, which will be able to consecrate itself to the campaign, defend inch by inch [pied à pied] the plan which we genuinely believe in; there were some who were there more out of personal interest in getting a position [in the new government] rather than out of ideological interest” (Mediapart, March 10, 2017; BFMTV, March 4, 2017).  

Spoken like a true extremist.  Worse still, Millon and Beigbeder seemed open to an electoral alliance in at least some parts of France between the LRs and the National Front [FN]. Fillon, it should be noted, remained  staunchly opposed to the FN (Mediapart, March 10, 2017).

So the campaign continued.  Fillon sat for an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche, a piece that appeared on April 16, 2017, just a week away from the elections. The authors noted that he seemed “astonishingly serene,” and refused even to consider that he might not be in the second round. He would be above all a president of “national recovery”: “I will be a president who will keep his promises, who will tell the French the truth about the situation in France and the world.” As Sarkozy’s former prime minister, he significantly noted that he would “respect the functions of the prime minister” to conduct the government (as, he implied, Sarkozy had not)–this, just as Sarkozy issued a tweet in his support:

“Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy gives his backing to François Fillon,” France 24 English, published on April 19, 2017, on Youtube.

(One can almost feel the passion.)

Fillon put forward a classic Gaullist vision of the constitution, noting that the prime minister would be involved in the messy day-to-day politics of running the country, while he as president would be above politics, and would concentrate on the defense of institutions, international affairs, and “the reconstruction of national unity.” Asked if he had the “moral authority” for such a role, he stressed once again his courage: “This crucible (épreuve) has strengthened me personally and has strengthened me in the eyes of the French and my political friends who have seen my determination“(Le Journal du Dimanche, April 16, 2017).

So the night of the first round finally arrived.

“Breaking–Macron, Le Pen qualify for 2nd round in French Presidential Election,” France 24 English, published April 23, 2017 on Youtube.

Fillon had one more duty to fulfill: to lend his support to one of the two finalists in the second round. And while he did not exactly make a recommendation, he clearly told them what he himself was going to do; and urged his followers not to abstain:

“France Presidential Election: Defeated Fillon addresses his supporters.” France 24 English, published on April 23, 2017, on Youtube.

The official government report of the first round revealed the final vote counts for the candidates; the votes of the top four are below (Gouvernement.fr):

Macron: 8,656,346

Le Pen: 7,678,491

Fillon: 7,212,995

Mélenchon: 7,059,951

Given everything, he came damn close.

===============================================================

Fenech, Georges, “Qui imagine le général de Gaulle mis en examen?” Paris: First Editions, 2017.

Goer, Matthieu, and Lemarié, François Fillon: Les coulisses d’une défaite. Paris: L’Archipel, 2017.

Stefanini, Patrick, and Barjon, Carole. Déflagration. Paris, Robert Laffont, 2017.

Header image of defaced Fillon poster by Shutterstock.com.