As the political scandal gripping (former) French presidential frontrunner Francois Fillon grows, his public support is tumbling and according to a new opinion poll released on Wednesday, the conservative presidential candidate would no longer even make the second round of this spring's presidential election in France, raising the pressure on him as a scandal over his wife and children's publicly funded "fae work" engulfed his campaign.
The poll by Elabe showed rising support for far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, but notably it showed centrist Emmanuel Macron most likely to win the presidency - snatching the position of favorite that Fillon held until last week - in the presidential runoff round.
Former minister Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche!
The poll's findings summarized:
- Marine Le Pen leads the first round voting intentions with 27% support, up 3 points.
- Emmanuel Macron on 23%, unchanged
- Francois Fillon has slipped to 20%, down 6 points.
- Macron beats Le Pen 65%-35% in 2nd round
- Fillon beats Le Pen 59%-41% in 2nd round
Elabe predicted Macron would beat Le Pen in the second round with 65 percent of the vote. Should Fillon make the second round, he too would beat Le Pen, but by a lower margin, at 59 percent, Elabe said. The poll, published on Wednesday and covering among about 1,000 people, is the second one to be conducted since the scandal engulfed Fillon's campaign. Then again, as the past year has shown, when it comes to non-traditional candidates or outcomes, polls are notoriously wrong, so it is possible that Le Pen's chances in the second round are underestimated.
The poll by Elabe for Les Echos newspaper was conducted on Jan. 30 and 31, a few days after a newspaper report that said Fillon's wife was paid taxpayers' money for fake work. While Fillon has denied accusations of graft, and said repeatedly the work was genuine, an inquiry has been opened and the couple have been interviewed by police. Fillon, chosen in November by a party primary, said he will stand down if he is put under formal investigation. He is expected to meet members of his party on Wednesday as some of them reportedly consider a campaign without him. It was unclear how a new candidate could emerge with less than three months to go before the election.
That said, as WikiLeaks pointed out this morning, the description of the unexpected presidential frontrunner - a former Rothschild M&A banker - in Hillary Clinton's email "is at odds with campaign image."
As we reported yesterday, on Tuesday, French police searched Fillon's office in parliament and party leaders began to consider a "Plan B" without him.
The Fillon scandal has heightened investor uncertainty about the outcome of the presidential election, with players nervous about the possibility that the anti-euro, anti-EU Le Pen could win power and pursue a French exit from the bloc.
Meanwhile, uncertainy about the outcome of the election has spread to French assets, with the gap between French and German government borrowing costs soaring to 3 year highs.
Should Fillon drop out, which now seems increasingly likely, expect further French asset turmoil as the Conservatives scramble to unveil a replacement candidate with less than three months until the first round of the presidential election.