Right-wing politician Eric Woerth remained at the head of the French parliament’s finance committee, despite being charged with involvement in the alleged illegal financing of Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential election campaign.
“We consider that you are an absolutely legitimate as the head of this committee,” vice-president Gilles Le Gendre of President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move (REM) said at a session on Wednesday.
He promised that the ruling party would not exploit Woerth’s judicial worries and the former budget and labour minister, who had earlier told the meeting that he would not let them “damage the work of our committee” was applauded by his colleagues.
Not alll REM MPs seem to be happy with the situation, however.
“Above all it poses a symbolic problem,” Catherine Fabre, who is a member of the social affairs committee, told the Senate’s LCP television. “The French people expects precisely to have exemplary politicians and this moralisation of political life really has to materialise quickly so that we regain the confidence of the whole French people.”
Woerth was charged on Tuesday after investigators established that he had lied when he told them that there had been no cash payments related to the election campaign, for which he was treasurer.
The Kadhafi connection
In March Sarkozy was charged with passive corruption, illegally financing an election campaign and receiving Libyan public money after a long-running investigation into allegations that former Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi secretly paid 50 million euros in cash to help his presidential bid.
He denies the accusations and says he is the victim of a “campaign of hate”.
The sum is double the legal campaign funding limit of the time and would also violate French rules against foreign financing and declaring the source of campaign funds.
After backtracking on his no-cash claim, Woerth said he handed out about 30,000 euros to campaign employees, claiming that it was money paid in small amounts by party sympathisers.
“This indictment is based on the discovery of cash sums, very small if not outright ridiculous considering the cost of a presidential campaign,” said his lawyer, Jean-Yves Leborgne.
After he was charged Woerth’s Republicans party colleagues declared their confidence in him, praising his “probity”.