Addressing the candidates for the upcoming French presidential elections, the daily paper Libération asks questions about its commitment to the improvement of political practices for the next term. "With the exception of François Fillon, the main candidates for the presidency have agreed to commit themselves to the measures we have put to them about money and the parliamentarians," the newspaper said.
It all began late last January, when it became known that Penelope Fillon, wife of the Conservative candidate to the Presidency of the French Republic, had been benefiting from fictitious jobs, in different periods since 1988, such as in the position of her former husband's -minister and deputy- collaborator, paid with public money. According to "Le Canard Enchaîné", prestigious weekly for its fight against corruption, Penelope Fillon would have pocketed a total of 900,000 Euros. After the scandal, Fillon has only responded with multiple inaccuracies, contradictions and dodging the question of substance, which has called into question their their own electoral candidacy.
But the most substantial part of the matter is that the French are only now learning that this practice of fictitious jobs, which has precedents, has always been widely used by representatives of the people. A Matter that, among other things, confirms that the habit does not make the monk. That is, the form of the State, in this case the very honourable French Republic, does not constitute any guarantee against corrupt practices. Those who, for example, tear their hair out over the Urdangarin scandal, in an anti-monarchical sense, might be surprised by the amounts involved in institutionally-organized theft in our neighbouring country. Nor would the ardent supporters of the Catalan Republic (in the spirit of Fierabrás's political balm) take a self-critical look at the landscape that surrounds us, beginning with themselves.
This is not an isolated case
Continuing with the misappropriation of public money in France, we should remember that Jacques Chirac, former president of the Republic, was convicted of misappropriation of public funds, abuse of trust and other crimes. their successor at the head of the municipality, Jean Tibéri, was also caught up in a legal storm. The first secretary of the socialist party, Jean-Christophe Cambambeles, was condemned to a prison sentence on two occasions for this type of business. In the National Front, Marine Le Pen, along with some twenty European parliamentarians, are accused of working for their party, at the expense of their public salaries. And so on
"The perversity of political-financial affairs is that they revive Poujadism" (the reactionary political movement typical of the middle classes, which emerged in the mid-1950s in France), says Libèration. "In any case, its virtue," he adds, "in a democracy that works, is that they make transparency and law progress. This has been so in the case of Cahuzac. "The disclosure of accounts abroad by the former finance minister in 2013 led to a law creating a High Authority for the transparency of public life and a national financial court for the first time. Two advances that no-one dares to call into question, including the right (who had voted against a dozen initiatives). We expect that the supposed fictitious jobs of the Fillon family will find a legislative outlet, thus advancing being exemplary", says Libération.
We should remember that Jacques Chirac, former president of the Republic, was convicted of misappropriation of public funds, abuse of trust and other crimes
Anticipating this debate, the newspaper has proposed six commitments to the presidential candidates, which seem indispensable to restore confidence between the French and their elected representatives. Contrary to what the right says, François Fillon is not the tree that hides the forest. This is not an isolated case. According to a Libération investigation, about 21% of current MPs have employed members of their family as advisors, and 12% declare private incomes in addition to their salaries as parliamentarians. In June 2012, in one of their first debates, Claude Bartolone said he wanted to make the Assembly "a transparent glass house, as an example". It goes without saying that this (ambitious) promise has not been fulfilled.
Eradicate any suspicion
The six commitments proposed by Libération did not fall from the heavens. These are reasonable solutions raised by many specialists in transparency in public life. Some are directly inspired by proposals from the NGO Transparency France, included in a petition on the Internet that has attracted 30,000 signatures. There are solutions that a priori do not pose technical problems, such as the prohibition of family jobs or the abolition of the parliamentary reserve, that envelope of 82 million Euros, used by members of parliament according to their personal criteria to subsidize local and/or association. Others are more complex. Prohibiting a deputy or a senator from accepting private pay could face a constitutional refusal. Benoît Hamon recalls that in 2013, the "wise men" censored essential measures of the law of transparency of public life, such as the prohibition of parliamentarians from "exercising a professional activity that was not theirs before beginning their mandate" or that of "exercising a consulting function that they would have exercised before their term". But the socialist candidate points out that the jurisprudence of the Council is not "insurmountable because it is subject to the legislative provisions adopted in referendum and, of course, those taken up by constitutional means".
Except François Fillon, who is the only one who has not responded (and whose programme does not include anything on the subject), most candidates accept all or part of Libération's commitments. "Not without opportunism," the newspaper said. Nicolas Dupont-Aignan now recommends a ban on family jobs, while employing his own wife as a parliamentary attaché. And Marine Le Pen is not free from contradictions, who now defends today a regulation of the European Parliament that until yesterday she has trampled".
The six issues raised by Libération are:
Are you in favour of prohibiting any deputy or senator from receiving any private remuneration beyond their salary as a parliamentarian, unless the deontology certifies that there is no conflict of interest?
Do you agree with the ban on family jobs, just as the European Parliament does?
Do you favour the creation of a parliamentary adviser employment status?
Are you in favour of the nomination of a true "deontologist" with control and investigative powers and who should report annually?
Do you think that the budget item representing mandated expenditure should be deleted and replaced with duly justified representation costs?
Are you in favour of scrapping the parliamentary reserve?
The six commitments proposed by Libération did not fall from the heavens. These are reasonable solutions raised by many specialists in transparency in public life
And the answers:
Benoît Hamon: "Eradicate any suspicion"
Emmanuel Macron: "The real activity of collaborators must be verifiable"
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan: "Abuses leave us with no choice"
Marine Le Pen: "Scrap the parliamentary reserve"
Jean-Luc Mélenchon: "This transparency cannot dispense with the powerful, the great patrons, the oligarchs"
Philippe Poutou: "Some build villas and acquire apartments legally"
Nathalie Artaud: "Everything must be public and known by all"