Macron's minister faces criminal probe

A French public prosecutor yesterday opened an investigation  into the financial dealings of the head of Emmanuel Macron's successful presidential campaign, throwing a new spotlight on sleaze in a fraught election year.

The preliminary probe comes 10 days before a parliamentary vote where Macron hopes his new political party Republic On The Move (LREM) will win control of the National Assembly and consolidate his grip on power after his own election on May 7.

Opinion polls so far show he is likely to achieve that aim, and that the affair surrounding Richard Ferrand, now a minister in the Macron government, is not impacting voting intentions.

However, two of Macron's main opponents were hamstrung by corruption allegations during the bitter battle for the presidency. Macron's government has put political probity front and center in his first two weeks in power, and was due later on Thursday to introduce a plan for new anti-graft legislation.

A voter survey earlier this week showed most feel Ferrand should step down.

"Is there a risk? [for the parliamentary election result] The answer is yes," Jean-Paul Delevoye, the man in charge of choosing Macron's party's candidates for the parliamentary election, acknowledged to reporters at the European American Press club. But he added he was nevertheless confident of having a solid majority in parliament.

Failure to secure a majority in the June 11 and 18 election could put Macron's centrist, pro-business reform agenda at risk by forcing him into an uncomfortable alliance, most likely with mainstream conservative party The Republicans, which is still smarting from defeat in the presidentials.

In France, the opening of a preliminary inquiry does not imply guilt.

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