Seventy percent of French voters want Territorial Cohesion Minister Richard Ferrand (pictured) to step down, and 62 percent feel the same way about European Affairs Minister Marielle de Sarnez, a Harris poll found.
Satirical investigative weekly magazine Le Canard Enchaine has reported that six years ago an insurance company led by Ferrand struck a rental deal with a firm headed by his romantic partner. On Tuesday, Le Monde reported that as a lawmaker Ferrand advocated for a bill advantageous to insurance companies in 2012. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told France 2 TV that, despite the "exasperation of the French," Ferrand would remain in government but warned that such actions "are no longer accepted today, can no longer be tolerated."
To Ferrand's credit, though his practices suggest conflicts of interest, prosecutors have not launched an investigation into his actions. "I refute and condemn all the suspicions," Ferrand said late Tuesday.
Pressure has grown on Ferrand, who carried the flag for Emmanuel Macron's En Marche (Forward) movement, which pledged a more-honest style of centrist politics in France. In his ultimately successful presidential campaign, Macron received a boost when scandals brought down his rival to the right, Francois Fillon, who as prime minister had hired his wife and other family members as aides to reportedly do little work for high pay.
The Paris daily Le Parisien ran a banner headline on its Tuesday cover asking: "What about that ethics cleanup?"
L'affaire de Sarnez
On Tuesday, European Affairs Minister de Sarnez issued a statement saying she did nothing wrong when she hired an assistant as a member of the European Parliament. She also filed a slander complaint against Sophie Montel, a counterpart from Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front also accused of using aides who received their salaries from the European Union to undertake political activities in France. Montel, for her part, told French television that "de Sarnez can do what she likes."
MEPs under investigation include FN boss and rejected presidential candidate Le Pen. In February, the assembly began withholding part of its pay to the party's leader to recover the money apparently lost to fraud.
The Paris prosecutor's office has confirmed that it has launched investigations into 19 French MEPs but refused to name names. In addition to the lawmakers, the prosecutor's office has begun scrutinizing more than 20 parliamentary aides on suspicion of receiving money through the alleged breach of trust.
mkg/msh (AFP, Reuters, EFE, AP)