French President Emmanuel Macron is defending two of his ministers facing misconduct allegations.
Addressing his cabinet on Wednesday, Emmanuel Macron called for “solidarity” for the Territorial Cohesion Minister Richard Ferrand and the European Affairs Minister Marielle de Sarnez. Both ministers face media accusations of misconduct.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe made clear the two ministers would remain in place. Meanwhile, a Harris poll published on Tuesday suggests that 70% of public opinion wants Ferrand to resign and 62% want de Sarnez to follow him.
Macron won as an independent on an anti-corruption ticket and on the back of a corruption scandal embroiling the conservative candidate, François Fillon. The satirical weekly that delivered the deadly blow to the Fillon’s campaign, Canard Enchaîné, is now undermining Macron’s government.
Richard Ferrand, 54, defected from the Socialist Party to campaign for Emmanuel Macron, as Secretary General of the En Marche! Movement. The satirical weekly says that the former Socialist MP abused his position as the director of an insurance company to enrich friends.
His company, Les Mutuelles de Bretagne, opted to rent property in Brest from one of Ferrand’s partner, Sandrine Doucen, for €42,000 euros a year, while also assuming the cost of the property’s renovation for €184,000.
That was not merely a lucrative contract.
Doucen owned only 1% of the company. 99% was owned by Ferrand’s daughters. The value of the company has since risen by a factor of 3,000. All of this is legal, lucrative, but also does not appear entirely ethical. Apparently, that was not the only contract awarded to Doucen.
In defense of Ferrand
Ferrand expresses dismay, pointing out that the company’s current management continues to express confidence in him and that he did nothing illegal. However, the “trust” bestowed to him by current management is now seen with considerable suspicion. Earlier this week, Le Monde revealed that as a Socialist Party MP, Ferrand supported a bill favouring mutual insurance companies, while he also served as an adviser to his replacement in the management of the company, Joëlle Salaün.
Not unlike Fillon, Ferrand employed Salaün’s partner, taxi driver, and Socialist activist Hervé Clabon as a parliamentary assistant. When he retired, he replaced him with his own son for four months. The salary of his “assistants” was €8,704 a month.
The scandal is undermining the Macron administration days before the crucial legislative elections.
Meanwhile, European Affairs Minister Sarnez is facing “abuse of confidence” allegations. She is accused of hiring a parliamentary assistant in Brussels, who was, in fact, working for the party in France. The case was initiated following a tip-off by National Front (FN) MEP Sophie Montel to Olaf.
Sarnez has sued the MEP for malicious accusation.
The ongoing scandal undermined Macron days before the French return to the polls in the forthcoming legislative elections on June 11 and 18. His political ally, Mr. Bayrou, has drafted legislation that would prevent members of parliament from hiring family members as parliamentary aides.
That bill was meant to address the “Fillon-gate,” but may now equally apply to the Ferrand-gate. Although Ferrand has not broken the law, he has achieved major damage for the image of Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM).
LREM continues to lead the polls with approximately 30% of the vote. Pollsters suggest LREM could win a majority in the lower-house National Assembly.